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Finding Information: Databases

Introduction to Databases

A database is an organised, searchable collection of information.

Although databases can contain a wide range of resource types, many of the databases you will use contain journal articles. They contain information about academic journals and the articles published in them, including detailed records of individual articles, such as the title, authors, abstract, keywords, and citation information. Databases may contain either full-text articles (the whole thing), citation information (just the reference details and abstract) or a mix of both. 


Why use a database when Discovery has everything the library owns or subscribes to? 

  1. Specialized content: Databases are designed to provide access to a specific subject or discipline. They often contain a vast collection of scholarly articles, conference papers, dissertations, and other relevant resources specific to a particular field. This focused content ensures that researchers can find the most relevant and high-quality information for their specific research needs.

  2. Citation of articles not available in full text through the library: while library discovery tools primarily index and provide access to resources available within the library's collection, databases can extend beyond those boundaries and include citations from a wider range of sources. Moreover, the library can source these items via our resource request scheme. Learn more about accessing the full text here

  3. Advanced search capabilities: Databases typically offer advanced search features that allow researchers to perform precise and targeted searches. These features may include Boolean operators, truncation, phrase searching, and field-specific search options. Such capabilities enable researchers to narrow down their search results and retrieve more specific and relevant information.

  4. Enhanced filtering and sorting options: Databases provide various filtering and sorting options that allow researchers to refine their search results based on specific criteria such as publication date, author, journal, keywords, and more. These options enable researchers to quickly identify the most relevant and recent sources within their field of study.

  5. Advanced browsing and navigation: Databases typically offer advanced browsing and navigation options, such as subject categories, citation networks, related articles, and citation metrics. These features allow researchers to explore related research, discover influential articles, and gain a broader understanding of the field.

  6. Updates and alerts: Many databases provide the option to set up alerts or notifications based on specific search queries or topics of interest. Researchers can receive regular updates on newly published articles or any developments in their field, ensuring they stay up-to-date with the latest research.

To see the full list of databases accessible through UoS library, visit our A-Z of eResources. Underneath each database listing is a short description of its content to help you decide which ones to use. To access the database, just click the title! 

Top database tips:

  • Filter the A-Z list by subject to see the databases that will be most useful for your subject area.
  • Always access databases through the library A-Z. Going through other routes, such as Google, may not give you access. 

Test yourself! What have you learned about databases? Test your knowledge with a few short questions.

When it comes to searching, what you put in determines what comes out; the quality and relevance of your results will be determined by the appropriateness of your search terms and techniques. 

Below are some simple top tips: 

  1. Select appropriate search terms. Not sure how? Check out our guide on Generating Keywords and Alternative Terms.  

  1. Avoid misspellings, typos, and unnecessary punctuation. Remember that search tools often interpret your search terms literally, if you enter an incorrectly spelt word, they'll look for that exact word!  

  1. Use boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to combine keywords strategically. Learn more in the Enhancing Your Search guide

  2. Try phrase searching, denoted by double quotation marks (“ ”) and truncation, denoted by an asterisk (*). Phrase searching tells the search tool to look for your phrase (e.g., “graphic design” or “industrial action”) as one word. Truncation allows you to search for variant endings of a word simultaneously (e.g. child* will locate child, children, childhood, childcare). Learn more in the Enhancing Your Search guide

  3. Filter your results. Filters are restrictions or limits you can apply to your search results to return more relevant material, you can filter by publication year, content type, language and more.  

Check out our Enhancing Your Search guide for more guidance!