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Psychology: Effective Library Research: 5. Research databases

Online tutorial introducing you to the skills and techniques needed for effective library research.

Research databases are a good place to find scholarly literature. Research databases provide access to research, including journal articles, conference proceedings and book chapters.

The core databases for your subject are highlighted here.

There are many more databases you may like to consider searching as part of your research. Details of all of the databases you can access are available through the A-Z databases list.


Learn more about what databases are and why they are important below, before completing the database search tutorial activities.


A-Z Databases Activities

A-Z Databases

Database Search Activities

What is a database?

Research databases enable you to see what has been published in the area you are researching. They contain detailed records of thousands of journal articles, book references and conference proceedings. These records usually include the article title, authors, abstract (a brief summary), keywords (to enable your search to find it) and more.

Why should I use a database?

  • They are a valuable way of searching for published scholarly research across a wide number of sources
  • You can build complex searches using sophisticated search interfaces. There will be plenty of options to refine your searches, ensuring that the results are likely to be relevant to your needs
  • They contain huge numbers of records, and thus provide comprehensive subject coverage
  • They also provide frequent (often daily) indexing, and so are very up to date

There are many different databases. Their interfaces will all vary, and they may use different terminology.

However, they all have similar features. Once you are familiar with these, you'll be able to find your way around different databases. You can see the main features in the examples below.

This is what a standard database interface looks like:

Once you click the Search button, the results page appears:

It is important to note:

  • Some databases provide full text access to the articles themselves.
  • Some databases are primarily indexes or bibliographic databases, and although they provide information about the content of a journal article, they may not provide full-text access to the actual article itself.
  • Some databases are a mixture of full-text and indexed/bibliographic access.


So, when searching databases, be prepared for an extra step. 

After finding a relevant article or book you need to check whether you have access to that item, either in print or in full-text online.  Many of the databases will have a Check for this at Exeter button; clicking on this link will check whether we have access to the item.


For more information and top tips on finding the full text, see the How to access full text articles libguide.

APA PsycInfo

APA PsycInfo is a large bibliographic database of peer-reviewed literature in behavioral science and mental health. The database uses the Ovid platform. For in depth guidance on searching Ovid explore the Searching Ovid LibGuide.

Web of Science

Web of Science is a large multidisciplinary research database covering all subject areas.

You can use it to discover the global literature on a wide range of topics.  It is not a full text database, but you can use it to discover published material and follow links through to discover the full text available on other services.

Web of Science search image

Psychology & Behavioral Sciences Collection

The Psychology & Behavioral Sciences Collection is a full text database providing access to psychological literature. It has extensive coverage in child and adolescent psychology and counselling. The database uses the EBSCO platform. 

Medline (PubMed)

A quick start guide to using Medline (PubMed) can be found here.

There are a number of useful features and tools available to improve your search. Some of the key features are highlighted in the following tabs. For additional tips on how to use these options see our guide to Medline (PubMed). Take the Medline (PubMed) tutorial to put these tips into practice.

Once you have run your search, there are several useful features you can use in PubMed. Click on the sections on the left hand side to find out more about some of them.

You can use the Send to menu to manage your search results.

Send to Clipboard

This is a way of temporarily saving your results (the contents of the Clipboard will be lost after 8 hours of inactivity).  You can select the references you want to save - or don't select any if you want them all - and then choose Send to Clipboard. 

Once you have saved your items you can continue searching, and access your results again by clicking on the clipboard link on the right hand side.

Save searches permanently by creating an account with My NCBI.

Send to email

Select the option to send to email. You can choose in which format you would like to receive your results (it is useful to include the abstract).

Send to citation manager

You can use this option to send your results to referencing managing software, such as EndNote.


From Display Settings, select a sort by option. Sort options include: Recently Added, Publication Date, First Author, Last Author, Journal, Title and Relevance.

N.B.The recently added date is the date a record was initially added to PubMed, not the publication date.

My NCBI saves searches, results, your bibliography, and features an option to automatically update and e-mail search results from your saved searches.

Click the My NCBI Sign In link, located at the top right of the page header, to sign into My NCBI or register for an account.

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