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Literature review: Making the best use of databases

Databases - common features

Common features of academic databases include the ability to:

  • See an abstract and/or fulltext or link to fulltext
  • Combine search terms
  • Use a thesaurus or subject headings to refine or expand your search
  • Select results to save/print/email/export to EndNote or other reference management software
  • Search for an exact phrase e.g. “open access publishing”
  • Use of boolean operators 
  • Truncate terms using wildcard characters 
  • Avail of database help and support

Databases - Help feature

Databases provide a useful Help feature - usually in the top right hand corner of the screen. Look for the Help button.

See screenshot from Proquest Search tips showing how to truncate terms on Proquest databases.


Database support and advice


Database producers provide both technical support and expert advice regarding search strategy. Look for the links to Support and Contact us on each database.

Databases - online tutorials

Use the online tutorial link to build up your search skills in each database. 

Tip: When browsing our list of databases, click on Details and look for the Online Tutorial link on the right, as shown below:

Look out for links to online tutorials within each database, these are often context sensitive. See screenshot from Web of Science below with an example of a context sensitive tutorial link: