Prepare: Online (bibliographic) databases

A database is a searchable collection of electronic records referring to published information. Databases can store, index and retrieve information about journal articles, conference papers and other research materials.

What information do they contain?

Some databases are general and cover all subject areas, while others focus on a particular discipline. Some contain specialist subject information such as market research reports or industry standards.

Some databases are free but many are subscribed to by the Library so that you can use them without any cost.

Researchers tend to use these more specialised databases as their research becomes more in-depth, so even if you don’t use these databases at the start of your course, it’s worth remembering that they are available to you to use throughout your degree.

To find out the types of databases that you can use to find research information in your subject area, have a look at the recommendations from your librarian. To help you search particular databases, you can also use one of our tutorials.

Why should I use databases?


There could be many journals which contain articles relevant to your assignment. However, Library Search does not index individual articles. Looking through individual journals would take a very long time. Using databases is a much quicker and more effective way of locating this information. You will be able to search across hundreds of journal titles simultaneously.

Reliability and quality:

‘Bibliographic’ databases usually contain references, abstracts and sometimes full-text articles which have been carefully selected by subject specialists. They can therefore be used with more confidence than items found by internet search engines such as Google.


In many cases you will be able to access a full-text version of a journal article online. As long as you’re connected to the internet you will have access to research material on or off campus, and won’t have to be in the library building to get access.



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