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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.

E.g. 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 tutorials to build up your search skills in each database. 




Look out for links to online tutorials in our library guides and in the database's Help or Support  or context sensitive links. See screenshot from Web of Science below with an example of a context sensitive tutorial link: