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A guide to effective database searching – University of Reading

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A guide to effective database searching


The guide is arranged in the following key sections:


This guide outlines useful methods you can use to search databases effectively to find the information you need. It will:

  • Introduce you to electronic databases and the information they contain
  • Offer guidance on choosing which database(s) to search
  • Show you how to analyse what you want and plan a search
  • Teach you some techniques for searching efficiently and comprehensively
  • Introduce you to ways of saving your results
  • Suggest what to do next with your references

What are electronic databases?

Most of our electronic databases are bibliographic. This means that they contain details of publications, such as books, journal articles, conference papers, theses etc. Use databases to find references on specific subjects. They are not limited to the collections at University of Reading Library and are often international in their coverage.

Some databases also provide full-text articles (eg JSTOR, ScienceDirect). Where the full-text is not provided you can link from your results to our Item Finder to see if it is available from another service. Look for the "Search for Item at Reading" button:

Search for item at Reading button

Almost all databases are accessible on the web. You will need to login using your University username and password. For more information see our page on accessing e-resources.

Which database should I use?

We subscribe to a range of databases: some cover all subject areas (eg Web of Science), some cover particular types of publication (eg Index to theses), and some cover specific subject areas (eg MLA Bibliography for English Literature).

For details on databases in your subject area see a list of databases in your subject. Alternatively, you can view an a-z list of all our databases.

We have provided an introductory webpage for each of our databases to highlight its key features and topics and dates covered. Use these pages to judge the usefulness of a database for your search and to access the database.

For more help, ask at an Information Desk or contact your subject liaison librarian.


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