Subscription Databases

What is a subscription database?

Have you ever had subscriptions to magazines or newspapers? If you answered yes, have you ever kept your magazines or newspapers for so long that they accumulated into one big pile? Well, imagine that you took those magazines and newspapers and scanned all of the articles and photographs into your computer. Now imagine that you made them all searchable and charged your friends/colleagues/family access to view your articles. Congratulations, you've just created a subscription database!

We use this scenario to teach our students about the concept of a subscription database. The interface of many subscription databases resembles that of the World Wide Web, so students naturally treat research on the Web and subscription databases (Facts on File's History Database Search and Ebsco's Academic Search Premiere) the same way, when in fact they are very different resources. Let's learn more about how they are different...

Collection Scope

Subscription databases have a collection scope. That means they usually have a limited collection. For example, Gale Cengage's Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center contains materials about current events, social issues, and controversial topics. Facts on File's American History database covers over 500 years of political, military, social, and cultural history of the United States. Neither of these databases contains materials outside of this scope, and the materials within these databases range from periodical articles to excerpts from books to images to selected webpages.

The Web's collection scope, however, is essentially limitless. With Internet access, users worldwide have fast and free access to an enormous amount of information on the Web. And anyone who wants to purchase a domain to add to the Web, or has access to publish to already existing pages on the Web, or wants to build a website through a free Web 2.0 technology (like we are doing with this page), can do just that. The Web has basically made information decentralized.

When you consider that Ebsco's Academic Search Premier contains more than 8,500 journals and the World Wide Web contains at least 23.37 billion indexable pages as of June 27, 2010, you can see why we need to teach our students how to treat these resources differently.

*The types of sources in databases and on the Web are important to consider for source requirements when developing assignments.

Hunterdon Central's Subcription Databases

To view Hunterdon Central's list of subscription databases while on-campus, visit here:

When off-campus, visit here and click "access from off-campus."