Databases Design Grad Students Should Know: Design Reseach Guide

Depending on your particular area of research, you will probably need to broaden your searching beyond the usual databases for Design. For example, if you are researching design and education, you will want to search education databases as well; if you are researching design and environment, you should search in environmental databases. Especially for research for your thesis or dissertation, you need to be as thorough as possible.

Be sure you look through the Subject Browse Page to see what other databases might be available in your area of research.

I would also strongly urge you to create a Refworks account for yourself; Refworks will allow you to keep track of and organize the information you find. It also is a super-easy way to format your bibliography.

The basic process for using databases or indexes is generally the same for all databases or indexes:

  • First, locate the index
  • Next, look up your topic in the index
  • Write down, print out, or email to yourself or add to your Refworks account any citations (information about an article) that look good to you
  • Then, find out if NC State has the journal you want
  • Finally, go find the article

If you don't understand this process or have questions about how to use databases to find articles, see the page on Article Databases for Design Students: finding journal articles.

Search TRLN

The Triangle Research Libraries Network (TRLN) is a consortium of the local research libraries, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, North Carolina State University, and North Carolina Central University. This consortium allows students at each of those universities to borrow books from the other libraries, and TRLN has created a shared catalog to facilitate this. Go to :
You can search all the libraries' catalogs at one time, and, if you go to the full record for any particular item, you can put in a request for that item, and have it sent to the library of your choice."


If you can't find anything on your topic at NCSU, Duke, UNC, or NCCU, you may want to look in WorldCat. WorldCat is a combined online catalog for over 70,000 libraries from over 100 countries around the world and has over 140 million records in its database. You can look in WorldCat and find books about your topic, and then go to the ILL page on NCSU Libraries' website, and request those books be sent to you, free of charge.

Dissertations and Theses

Dissertations and Theses provides information on dissertations produced at over 1000 participating universities and institutions. The database contains the following publications:

Comprehensive Dissertation Index
Dissertation Abstracts International
Masters Abstracts International
American Doctoral Dissertations

As a researcher, this database will help you find what is currently being done in your field, and by getting a copy of someone else's dissertation, you will be able to see not only what they researched, but also the bibliography of relevant research that they prepared. This can be an invaluable resource for you in your own work.

Web of Science

Part of the ISI Web of Knowledge, Web of Science is a leading citation database with multidisciplinary coverage of over 10,000 high-impact journals in the sciences, social sciences, and arts and humanities, as well as international proceedings coverage for over 120,000 conferences. As a citation database, the Web of Science allows you to easily follow references and citations; ie. to see what resources a particular author has cited in an article, and to see who in turn has cited that work in their later articles and thereby track ideas and concepts through scholarly publications.

Getting Things from Other Libraries

Once you've found descriptions of what you need in the various databases you've searched, you'll need to get it. The best way is to send in a request through the Libraries' Tripsaver service.

Tripsaver Home

You can also go to the other members of TRLN (the Triangle Research Libraries Network): Duke University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina Central University, and borrow books directly from them. See this website for details:

Duke and UNC both have excellent art libraries. Go to their websites to get directions or hours: The Lilly Library at Duke collects fine arts, philosophy, film, video, and performing arts. The Sloane Art Library at UNC collects art from prehistoric times to the present.

You can also use the Art Reference Library at the North Carolina Museum of Art. The Library's emphasis is on Western European and American art, in support of the Museum's primary collections. It also maintains an extensive Artists File on artists represented in the collection. The library is open to the public 10am to 4pm Wednesday through Friday. None of their materials circulate; you must use their books within the library. It's also advisable to call in advance: (919) 664-6770.