Graduate Research

Lesson 2: Disciplinary Databases and Tools

2.1 Databases

At the UW-Madison Libraries, our databases are organized by both subject area and by the type of source (e.g. newspapers, videos) in order to address the needs of researchers. At the top of each subject area page, you’ll find a list of databases that have been identified as core resources for that subject—databases that will be most useful to the broadest group of researchers. Beneath this list, you will find additional resources related to the subject and possibly further sub-categories of databases. Get to know the databases that are central to your field, and don’t be afraid to explore databases from other disciplines as well, including databases for primary sources and other types of media.

Subject Expertise

In addition to databases, the UW-Madison Libraries have also created curated lists of resources and tools categorized by subject on the Libraries’ website which you may wish to explore. Subject pages include journal databases to get you started, contact information for subject librarians, and links to Subject Guides, which are full of relevant resources, websites, and citation tools. The Libraries have also identified subject experts to assist you in your research, and you’ll find their names and contact information listed on the Subject pages as well. No matter what your discipline, you can contact any member of the Libraries’ staff by email or phone, chat online with a librarian using our Ask a Librarian service, or set up an appointment with a subject librarian. Whatever format is most convenient for you, we’re happy to assist you with getting started, finding sources, organizing your research, and exploring resources and tools to become a more thorough, efficient researcher.

NetID Access

Just as with other UW-Madison specific services, your NetID provides you access to all of the Libraries’ subscription databases. Nearly all of our databases can be accessed off campus by going through the UW-Madison Libraries’ website and logging in with your NetID. You can also use your NetID to login to your Library account and request and renew materials online. To learn more about your NetID and library Distance Services, check out Lesson 5.


2.2 Citation Managers

Have you ever been writing a paper, only to discover that you can’t remember where you found a particular quote or source? Citation managers can help you save, organize, and share research and citations. They allow you to import files, like PDFs, and citation information—such as the author, date, title, and abstract—and to organize this information into folders. Once you add sources to a citation manager, you can then easily export and share your citations with others. Some citation managers have plug-ins for Microsoft Word and other word processing programs to make the work of citing sources even easier. The Libraries provide support for several citation managers, including EndNote, Mendeley, and Zotero. When deciding which citation manager to use, consider the cost involved—especially if you intend to continue using the tool after you graduate from UW-Madison. You should also consider whether and how you need to collaborate with others, and whether you prefer to use a desktop, browser-based, or mobile-friendly platform. Features and tools change over time, so even if you’ve used a citation manager in the past, it might be worth reviewing the tool again. The Libraries typically offer several workshops in the fall and spring semesters to introduce some of the more advanced features of citation managers. If you are near campus, consider attending a workshop, or check out the online resources available on the Citation Managers website. Learn more about how to keep your research organized and never lose a citation again.