NBD1100 Built Environment Communication and Skills: Databases & journals

What is a library database?

A short animation that explains what library databases are from a student’s perspective.


An author writes an article on a particular topic and sends it to a publisher. Articles on similar topics are  published together in journals, which can also be known as periodicals. Next, the journal publisher assesses the article. It may be reviewed by other writers in the field. This would then be a peer reviewed article.The article is then published, either in:

PRINT - The library buys a subscription to the print copy of the journal and it is available on the library shelves.


ONLINE - An online database is a collection of journals a database provider packages together. The library subscribes to the online databases. These can be searched using keywords, author names and subjects for relevant information.

Quest for quality information sources

Students in their first year of tertiary education are inclined to exclusively use the Web in their search for information sources for their assignments. The types of information sources you use will depend on the learning and assessment requirements and the questions you are attempting to answer. However, the Web sources might not hold accurate and reliable information. For this reason, it is suggested to use the academic or scholarly material the VU Library Search and electronic databases contain. Through VU Library and Databases Search, you can locate journal articles, books chapters, newspapers articles, research reports, conference papers and many other sources of information related to the subject area you are researching.

Finding journal articles in databases

The Library Search is a good starting point for conducting research on any engineering topic, especially when you are not sure which database you should use. For more in-dept research, particularly if you are not finding the resources you were looking for, you might like to search the following databases individually:

Relevant journals

Boolean operators

Boolean Operators are the words AND, OR, and NOT used in library databases that can make searches more precise, and save you time by removing the need to go through all the search results in order to find most relevant articles.

AND narrows the search resulting in more focused results, for instance, searching for  “alternative energy” AND Australia, all articles in your result will include both concepts (keywords)

OR broadens the search by instructing the database to search for any of the words, which is particularly useful for synonyms or related terms, i.e. “alternative energy” OR “renewable energy” OR “solar energy”

NOT narrows the search by instructing the database to remove all unnecessary search results, for example “alternative energy” NOT “nuclear power”