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SPA: Finding and using library resources for assignments: 4. Research databases

Online support to help you build your library research skills

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

They also provide access to specific types of materials such as maps, film, news, official papers, standards etc.

wide range of databases are available to you at the University and are accessible 24/7 with your university login.

Use the full A--Z database list to access all available databases.  Depending on your research topic, you mau need to explore databases from other subject areas in order to access the full breadth of information available to you.

Below, you can find out more about the core databases relevant to your subject area. 

A-Z Databases List

A-Z Databases Demo

A-Z Database Demonstration


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.



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. 


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. 

Recommended databases for SPA research

Anthropology Online is a large research database focusing on the study of social and cultural life and all aspects of human behaviour. 

Use the Anthropology Online LibGuide for comprehensive support and training


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.

Use the online help videos for assistance with basic searching, advanced searching and filtering 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.


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. Use this video for guidance on searching


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.  


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. Use the Quick Reference Guide to get you started. 

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