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How To Do Research Off Campus

This virtual guide is intended to help our students use the Library's on-line resources to conduct research from their home or office.  All of the items discussed below can be found at the Library web site at   Access to and information about online databases can be found by clicking on “Databases” at the Library web site.  Additional information of interest to students can be found by clicking on “For Students”.  You may wish to print out this page for reference while doing your research.

Questions, Problems, Concerns or Suggestions???  Contact a reference librarian at (563) 333-6245 or email at  Names, phone numbers, and email addresses of the reference librarians can be found on the "Staff Directory" at the Library web site.

Online Journal/Magazine Databases

There are several online databases available at the Library web site that will provide access to magazine/journal articles, newspapers, and books from your home or office.  Here are some helpful hints to use some of them:

How to Access to FirstSearch & EbscoHost

These databases require using your SAU computer username & password for access when off-campus.  If you do not already have a username and password, call the Information Technology Dept. at (563) 333-6368 and be prepared to prove your current status as a student by giving your student identification number.


FirstSearch is a collection of journals, dissertations, books, newspapers, etc. in over 80 different databases with more than 3.3 million full-text articles in a variety of subject areas.   Copies of articles that are not available full-text can ordered through interlibrary loan (see instructions below).

  1. Go to "Databases" on the Library web site.
  2. If you are at home or in your office, click on "Off-Campus Access".
  3. Type in your SAU computer username and password.
  4. Choose "FirstSearch" from the list of databases.
  5. Click on "List All" under "Databases" on the tab across the middle. Select the database(s) you wish to search by clicking on the box next to the database's name, and then click on the "Select" button. You may search up to three databases at one time.
  6. Or, if you aren’t sure which databases to use, you could browse for pertinent databases by clicking on the subject areas of "social sciences", "life sciences" and so forth in the center of the screen.  "WorldCat" will provide information on books from other libraries.
  7. Type in your keywords in the “Search” box and click on the "Search" button.
  8. A list of articles will be produced matching your search criteria.  If the article is available in full-text, you will see “View HTML full-text” after the citation.  Click on those words for the full-text of the article.  The full-text can be printed out using the regular "print" function on your computer.  If the article is not available in full-text, you can order a copy through interlibrary loan by clicking on the "ILL" button and completing the online form.


EbscoHost is a collection of full-text databases focusing on business, health, nursing, religion, psychology, and other academic subjects.  The materials found in this service include journals/magazines, books, pamphlets, reference resources, and newspapers.  This resource is available from both on and off campus.  In order to access this service from off campus you will need your SAU computer username and password.

  1. Click on "Databases" on the Library website.
  2. If you are at home or in your office, click on "Off-campus Access".  Type in your computer username and password when prompted.
  3. Choose "EbscoHost" from the list of databases.
  4. Click on “EbscoHost Web” in the center of the screen.  Select the database(s) you wish to search by clicking on the box next to the database name, and then click on the "Continue" button. You may search in more than one at a time.  For example, for Business information, choose “Academic Search Premier”, Business Source Premier”, and “MasterFile Premier”.  Then click "continue".
  5. Type in your keywords and click on the "Search" button.
  6. A list of journal articles matching your search criteria will be produced.  If the article is available in full-text, you will see “HTML Full Text” or “PDF Full Text” after the citation.  Click on those words to view the entire article.  The articles can be printed out, emailed to someone, or saved on a disk.  If the article is not available full-text, a copy can be ordered through interlibrary loan.

There are other databases you may wish to try depending on your subject.  Some will have full-text articles; others only have abstracts and citations.  Any of the articles can be borrowed through interlibrary loan if they are not available full-text.  See below for interlibrary loan instructions.

Interlibrary Loan Services

Interlibrary Loan (ILL) Services attempts to borrow materials that we do not have within our own collection. Since every library caters to its own clientele, there will be instances when another library collection may be better suited to a particular need.  In some instances, the loaning library may place restrictions on the use of the material.  For example, fragile materials may be designated as "in-library use" only.

If you would like a copy of a magazine/journal article that is not available full-text, complete the interlibrary loan form available online at  This service is limited to St. Ambrose University students, faculty, and staff.  To obtain the password for this service, call the Library at (563) 333-6245 and be prepared to verify your status within the University.  In completing the online form, be sure to specify how you want to receive the item (e.g. mailed to you, faxed to you, etc.). 

Troubleshooting Tips
for Online Access/Electronic Reserves

If you are experiencing problems accessing online databases or electronic reserves, ask yourself these questions:

What Internet browser are you using?
     Because our site was created with MicroSoft products, using Internet Explorer produces better results than using Netscape Navigator or other browsers.  Having the most current version of Internet Explorer will also help.

What is your ISP (Internet Service Provider)?
     America Online (AOL) does not support Java script, so if you are connecting through AOL and experience problems, you may want to go to a computer with a different ISP (such as the public library).  Or, you might want to try opening a second browser window through AOL and accessing the Library website through that.  To do that, minimize the AOL window and then click on the Internet Explorer icon or choose Internet Explorer from the Programs menu.
     WebTV does not currently support the type of java-rich material utilized by this web site.
     Some cell phones or other mobile devices may be used to access this information.  The display on the screen may appear slightly different than that displayed on a computer screen.

Do you have Adobe Acrobat Reader loaded on your computer hard drive?
     You can go to to download this on your computer at no charge.  Acrobat Reader is required to open .pdf documents.

Are you trying to gain access at work?
     Your office network may have a firewall installed for protection which prevents you from downloading .pdf documents.  Check with your office computer support person.

How old (and fast) is your computer?
     It may take a long time (5+ minutes) to download a file or module depending on the age of your computer.  If that is the case, you may want to click on the file, then go do something else while it loads.

Do you have the correct password?
     To obtain information on passwords, call the Reference Desk at the Library at (563) 333-6245 and be prepared to verify your student status by providing the librarian with your St. Ambrose University ID number.   If your SAU ID password is not working, contact the Information Technology Department at (563) 333-6368.

If all else fails....
    Call the Reference Desk at the Library at (563) 333-6245.  Perhaps we can print off the information you need and fax it to your home or office, or drop it in the mail.

Virtual Reference Desk

Don't know where to begin your research paper?
Uncertain which resources to use?

The Virtual Reference Desk service will provide:

  • A forum for serious research and on-line reference help from St. Ambrose Librarians

  • E-mail responses to questions within 24 hours.

  • Due to a high volume in questions, we must limit this service to individuals affiliated with St. Ambrose University

  • Short questions may also be submitted via Meebo Chat, available on the Library homepage.

The Virtual Reference Desk is geared more towards academic or research questions. In most cases, the response that you get will be geared toward helping you research the question yourself.   We will give you starting points based on your expressed preferences.  

Questions asked

  • should pertain to your coursework.
  • can be as brief or as detailed as necessary.
  • must include your e-mail address or phone number.  We will correspond with you to give you information and get more information if we need to.

Go to and complete the online form.  Click on “submit” and your question goes directly to the Reference Desk. 


Last modified

August 2009

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