If you need to delve into the details of a subject area, it may be a good idea to search for literature in relevant academic databases. An academic database will cover one or more academic fields in depth. Such databases may include references to published research or full-text articles from various journals. An academic database allows for precise, thorough, systematic and more complex searches.
Use academic databases if you:
• Have a relatively specific issue that requires a somewhat complicated search.
• Need to be thorough and/or specific in your search.
• Need to perform searches for a (relatively) systematic literature review.
• Want to document and reuse the search.
The University Library offers access to many different databases for most academic fields. Go to the subject pages to view the recommended databases for your subject.
For an overview of all databases we have access to, please see our database overview.
In addition to databases specific to each academic field, the University Library also offers access to the interdisciplinary Web of Science database. The Web of Science database is well-suited to issues that span different subjects and academic fields, as well as acting as a supplement to databases specific to academic fields. One of the main strengths of the database is that it includes a wealth of reference data; including information about which documents reference other documents.
Other tools with overlapping areas of application include Google Scholar and BASE (Bielefeld Academic Search Engine) – which are particularly strong when it comes to academic literature that is openly available and free to everyone, so-called Open Access.
Use interdisciplinary reference databases when you:
• Want to establish which documents are frequently read and referenced.
• Want to conduct meticulous and reproducible literature searches for issues that span multiple disciplines.
• Want to supplement systematic review searches from databases specific to academic fields.
• Primarily want to access literature that is openly available to everyone (BASE)
Many of the subject databases are less intuitive than simple search tools like Oria and Google Scholar. Some of them require the user to have knowledge of how controlled search vocabulary and Boolean operators work. Below we have included links to two videos that explain these terms:
• Controlled search vocabulary (Thesaurus) (available in Norwegian only)
• Operators (AND and OR) (available in Norwegian only)
Below you can find four videos demonstrating the use of controlled search vocabulary, operators and search history.
Different databases have different interfaces. However, databases located on the same platform generally look fairly similar and the search techniques are therefore transferable between different databases on the same platform.
The Ovid platform includes databases such as PsycINFO, MEDLINE and Embase:
• Simple example (PsycINFO, Ovid; available in Norwegian only)
• Somewhat complex example (PsycINFO, Ovid; available in Norwegian only)
The EBSCO platform includes databases such as CINAHL, ERC and Education Research (ERC):
• ERIC search example, controlled terms (EBSCO host) (Still under construction)
Citation searches are used if you have a current article and want to view more recent articles addressing the same topic.
See video clip in which you can quickly learn how to use citation searches (available in Norwegian only). This example uses the Scopus database, but we recommend using Web of Science.
Performing good searches is not all about the search technique, it also depends on how you plan and develop your search to ensure that the literature you find is relevant to your issue.
Here we have collected a few useful links and videos that can help you with the search process.
More tips on the search process and academic writing can be found at the Study, write and cite page
The Norwegian Electronic Health Library’s pages on knowledge-based practice may be useful for the entire search process. The examples relate to the field of health sciences but the process description can be useful in several fields. The page also deals with how to identify good keywords and provides an explanation of PICO forms (for those that use them) and more.
Search & Write is an online course that aims to help students master academic writing. The course was developed by the University of Bergen, NHH Norwegian School of Economics and Bergen University College. The part related to searching provides many great tips on how to search for literature when writing an assignment.
VIKO (“the path to information expertise”) is an interactive course in information expertise for students, developed by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s University Library. Among other things, the course will help you get to grips with formulating a problem, finding relevant literature and what it is important to consider in academic writing. The “Finding sources” chapter provides many great tips on how to search for literature when writing an assignment.
In systematic review searches, you will use a broad range of search tools and techniques. The most important thing is to have a systematic and thorough approach to search development that is properly anchored in a good understanding of the entire review process. Ovid WoltersKluwer has a three-part explanation of systematic literature reviews that will be useful to most people.
More tips on systematic review searches can be found in the presentations from the Take control of your PhD journey course. The course is intended for PhD students but also includes useful tips for others.