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Sports Science: Library Dissertation Research: Using Research Databases

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

A-Z Databases Activities

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. 

Finding Resources using the A- Z Databases List

To find databases, use the A-Z list. See the next tabs for help with finding the best databases for your topic.

Use the Database Targets worksheet to record useful databases as you explore.

You can scroll through the A-Z and choose a database if you know exactly what you are looking for.

Select databases by Subject

You can select your subject from the drop down subject menu to see a subset of resources in that category.

The subject listings will highlight the 'core resources'; these are key databases that are likely to be of interest to anyone studying and researching in that area.

Your Subject LibGuide will also highlight recommended databases for you to explore.

Select databases by Type

You can select a database type from the drop down type menu to see a subset of resources in that category.

For example, you may want to focus on news, official publications or reference works databases.

Each entry in the A-Z database list has an information icon. Hover over that symbol for information about the content that is available in the database and an idea of why it might be useful for research purposes. Shown below is the information for Web of Science, which is a valuable research database.


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


SportDiscus is a large bibliographic database for sports and sports medicine research. Subject coverage includes nutrition, physical therapy, occupational health, exercise physiology and kinesiology.


Access to thousands of abstracts for articles, conference papers and book chapters across a range of subject disciplines. Use SCOPUS to link to full-text holdings, find related items and track article citations.

Document search is the default option, searching for your search terms in the article, title, abstracts and keyword fields. You can add additional rows to your search query by using the plus button. Use the limit option to restrict your search results based upon date range, document type or access type. For more information about how to search SCOPUS on the LibGuide or see their range of tutorials.

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.

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.

Sage Research Methods

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.

Sage have produced this LibGuide to help you get the best from the resource.

You can access full text content and instructional videos from leading academics from across the social sciences.

It covers both qualitative and quantitative methods.

Some of the sections are not available - this is indicated by a padlock.  For example, you cannot access the Cases or Datasets sections.

The Methods Map is designed to help you understand the relationship between methods concepts.

You can use it for definitions of particular research methodology terms or concepts, and then link through to content on that subject.  You can also see broader and narrower research content terms.

Find out more in the Sage instructional video. 


Enter a research method / concept into the search box - e.g. observation

Scroll through and view items of interest.

You can select other Refine by options if you retrieve a large set of search results. 

Click to see more info on datasets, cases and video

Link to PDF on Sage Research Methods: introducing datasets, cases and videos

Clinical Health Databases

NICE Evidence is a search engine which allows you to search for guidelines, health technology assessments and economic evaluations. You can access prescribing information through the BNF and BNFC and up-to-date Clinical Knowledge Summaries (CKS) that condense the evidence-base on particular topics. 

TRIP database is a clinical search engine, that has been designed to help you find evidence-based content quickly. TRIP will help you identify research evidence, as well as images, videos and patient information leaflets. 

The Cochrane Library is home to two databases. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews will help you identify systematic reviews and protocols (a comprehensive description of a plan for a systematic review, including the rationale, hypothesis and the methods the authors intend to follow.) 

Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), can help you identify randomized and quasi-randomized controlled trials. It's worth noting that you won't be able to access the full text of the studies. You'll need to try and track down the full-text of the study using a research database such as MEDLINE or EMBASE.

Medline contains over 25 million citations in lifesciences and biomedicine. Coverage is from 1946 - present. You may already be familiar with searching Medline through PubMed. The articles indexed are the same, although PubMed coverage starts from 1966. 

This tutorial focuses on searching Medline via the Ovid platform. This platform is good for running advanced searches and provides access to full-text articles where available through university subscriptions.

For in depth guidance on searching Ovid explore the Searching Ovid LibGuide.

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