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Literature searching: How to find and use databases: 3. Selecting search tools

An introduction to undertaking literature searches. Planning your search, selecting search terms and constructing searches. Evaluating material you find, and recording and referencing the sources you use.

Select search tools (databases etc.)

Once you have analysed your topic and identified search terms, you then need to select your search tools. These might include: SUPrimo, subject specific database services, official websites, or even general search engines (like Google or Google Scholar).

The important thing is to select appropriate tools for the research you are undertaking.

What are databases?

Database services enable you to search across and access a huge range of sources including journal articles, book reviews, research reports, policy documents, case studies, legislation and many more types of document.

Database services can be general in coverage or very subject specific. Some services are comprised of many individual databases, which can be searched separately or cross-searched simultaneously. As well as easy to use basic search options, you can use powerful advanced search options in some databases to retrieve relevant documents. Databases also offer options to sort and refine results (e.g. by publication date, whether peer-reviewed, type of document, etc.) or search within results.

By using database services subscribed to by the University you will be able to search more effectively and retrieve materials you might miss otherwise if using general internet search engines.

Database services can be:

  • Abstracting databases provide comprehensive indexes to journal articles, books, book chapters and reports. Use references found on these databases to locate full-text documents or use the 'Find it @ Strathclyde' (Find it @Strathclyde) button to check for electronic and print availability.
  • Full text databases provide access to the full text of documents.
  • Hybrid services combine abstracts with full-text documents where available.

University credentials

You always need your University credentials for off campus access to database services and other online resources that the Library subscribes to. You may sometimes need these for on campus access as well.

How to find the best databases for your research

If you know the general subject area of your research but don’t know which databases are available, then you can look at the relevant subject guide. Subject guides give you a list of key databases in your area:

Alternatively, you can view an A-Z list of databases available to you and select from this:

If you know the name of the database you can search for this using SUPrimo. Simply enter the the name in the search box (using the 'Library Collections' tab) and select search. You can then follow links to the database from the results record:

Open Access

'Open Access' (OA) is unrestricted access via the internet to peer reviewed scholarly research. This includes: journal articles, conference proceedings, book chapters, monographs, research data, and open educational resources.

Gold OA is when the author makes their article openly accessible in a journal. This journal may be exclusively OA or it may be a hybrid, with a mixture of OA and subscription-only articles. Gold OA materials can be identified and accessed using commercial databases in the same way as other non-OA academic literature.

Green OA is when the author publishes in a journal and then deposits a version of this article into a subject or institutional repository, such as Strathprints. In order to identify and access Green OA materials you can use individual institutional repositories or services which aggregate repositories' materials in a single searchable resource.

Sources of Green OA