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Philosophy: Library Dissertation Research: Using Research databases

Online support to assist with planning and conducting your library dissertation research

Databases provide access to scholarly research, including journal articles, conference proceedings and books.

wide range of databases are  available to you at the University. 

Below, you can find out more about research databases, and also browse the Philosophy databases list.

Support information is provided on a selection of the key databases you will use for your philosophy research.

Depending on your topic, you may need to explore databases from other subject areas, or particular types of databases such as news sources or official publications.  Use the full A--Z database list to browse all databases.

A-Z Databases Activities


Mini Tutorials

Short Guided Introductions to ...


Database Search Practice

1. Choose a database
2. Run some searches on topics that interest you
3. Practise locating the full text 
4. Try downloading results
5. If you need help, contact your liaison librarian


Philosophy databases

About Databases

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.

In some cases, material you want to consult may not be available to you at Exeter. 

You will be using vast literature databases which feature many millions of resources from around the world. There are a number of options that may be of assistance to connect you with the information you need. 

Document Delivery Service

This service can be used  to request books/journal articles from other libraries. There is a charge for this service. Check online to see what arrangements are in place with your College / Department for covering the costs of this service.  You may have an allocation or your supervisor may provide a prepaid token for the request. 


Student Book Suggestion Scheme

Students can make book suggestions to the Library. Submit requests online and they will be reviewed by the library. If the book is unlikely to be used by others after your dissertation work, then you may be directed to the Document Delivery scheme instead, for short term access to material.


Library Hub Discover

Use this service to search across the book and journal collections of the UK research and specialist libraries.

You can search to see if copies of books/journals are available in other libraries that you could visit whilst at home over the vacation, or by a special trip.  Always check the access requirements before you travel, if you wish to visit another library.  Find out more about visiting other libraries. 

1. PhilPapers

PhilPapers  is a comprehensive index and bibliography of philosophy. It includes full text access to journals, books, open access archives, and personal pages maintained by academics.

When you login to the databases, click on the Take a Tour of PhilPapers for a guided tour.  This provides a short useful introduction to using PhilPapers.

The Advanced Search option allows for more targeted searching.

As well as entering your own search terms, you can use search particular fields such as author/date/publication. 


Not all material is available in full text.  Some content has bibliographic and abstract information only.

Scroll through the record screen and you will be able to check which full text options are available.


2. Philosopher's Index & Religion & Philosophy Collection (EBSCO)

Philosopher's Index and the Religion & Philosophy Collection databases are both available via the  EBSCOhost platform.

They are academic research databases covering the published literature in Philosophy and related disciplines. The services can be search independently or in combination. Watch the video tour on the next tab to familiarise yourself with this search service.

It is possible to search multiple EBSCO databases at the same time. You could search both Philosopher's Index and the Reliogion and Philosopy Collection together - plus any other EBSCO databases that align to your research topic.

To do this:

  • Click on Choose databases above the search box
  • Tick the boxes next to the databases you require
  • Click OK

You can then run your search across all the selected databases at once.

Use the video demonstration to learn more about searching effectively on the EBSCO search platform.

3. Humanities Index / International Bibliography of the Social Sciences IBSS / Proquest Sociology Collection

Humanities Index and International Bibliography of the Social Sciences (IBSS) are academic research databases on the ProQuest platform (sharing the same interface and features). They are multidisciplinary resources, offering peer-reviewed academic articles and other research materials from across the humanities and social sciences including philosophy and related studies. The Proquest Sociology collection is also available and includes the Applied Social Sciences Index & Abstracts service.

Watch the video demonstrations on the next tabs for guidance on searching and working with your search results.

Find out how to run a basic search with this quick video demonstration.

Use the Advanced Search video tutorial to find out more about searching effectively oin the Proquest databases

Use the video to discover how to work with your search results


JSTOR is a valuable research resource for secondary resources.  You can use it to search and find the full text of published books and journal articles.

Use the How to Search JSTOR LibGuide for an introduction to the service, or take a look at JSTOR's Vimeo channel for instructional videos.

Top Tip: Use the Advanced search option if you want to focus your searching to a particular subject area.

You an enter a quick search into the quick search box on the JSTOR home page, for example:

Phenomenological Reduction

Just click on an item to view it and explore it in more detail


The advanced search allows you to be more targeted with your research and apply limits/filters to your search before you begin.

For example, you can add multiple search terms, specify the proximity of your search terms, choose a date range and also select a discipline, e.g. Philosophy, so that you filter out material from other subject disciplines.


5. 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. For in depth guidance explore the Web of Science learning siteYouTube Videos or the Web of Science LibGuide.

Web of Science search image

6. Sage Resaerch Methods Online

Sage Research Methods Online (SRMO) is a great resource to use when you are planning and conducting your research.  It is a vast online research methods library.

It is targeted at social science researchers, and covers key research methodology topics that are applicable across the research spectrum.

Use the SAGE research methods LibGuide to help you get the best from the resource.

You can use the Doing Research Online module to learn to design and conduct online and digital research with videos, case studies, practice data and how-to guides.

This multimedia collection has been designed to support novice or experienced social science researchers who are conducting research online. Whether conducting their first or their hundredth study online, users will find support to employ a variety of digital methods from online surveys, interviews to digital ethnography, social media, and text analysis, as well as learn how to manage, store and archive digital data. Privacy and other ethical considerations specific to conducting research online are also covered. Researchers will also get support with how to navigate the challenges of being supervised online.

Content & Features:

  • ‘How to Guides’ (providing practical help with using digital research methods)
  • Videos (tutorials, expert interviews, video case studies, etc.)
  • Case studies (focused on challenges of designing and conducting research online)
  • Teaching sets of data with a guide (suggesting a method to analyze both digitally created and existing online data, plus a step-by-step guide to how to do it so that students can practice data analysis)

The module will be updated annually with new content to attend to the ever-evolving needs of researchers and to bring them the latest in methodology for online research.

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