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Renewable Energy Effective Library Research: 5. Research databases

The core databases for your subject are:



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




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.

Renewable Energy Databases

There are a wide range of databases available to you.

The key Renewable Energy databases are:

  • Web of Science is a multidisciplinary research database.
  • Environment Complete covers literature across geography, environmental sciences, urban planning and renewable energy. 
  • IEEE Xplore Digital Library is a computing and electrical engineering dataabase. 
  • Knovel a technical information source of live graphs and equations, plus handbooks and data books. 
  • ScienceDirect provides peer-reviewed full-text articles, book chapters and open access content covering all aspects of science, technology 

Web of Science  (WoS) is one of the key research databases that enables you to search across global literature on a topic. You can use sophisticated search techniques to help pinpoint the information you need. You can also use WoS functionality to link through to full text (where available) and examine related references and cited references in order to broaden your research.

See below for brief instructions on how to search the database.

Make sure you visit the tutorial, available in the self-test activities section on this page, for more detailed guidance



A full text database covering literature across geography, environmental sciences, renewable energy and urban planning and policy. Try the Environment Complete Search Activity on this page.

Environment Complete screen

Offers access to the scientific and technical content published by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and its publishing partners. Covers all aspects of computing and electrical engineering, including power and energy and smart grids

IEEE Xplore

A key source of technical information for engineers and scientists. Knovel provides interactive graphs and equations, plus ebooks and databooks. Knovel has a section on Sustainable Energy & Development.

Knovel search

A database of per-reviewed journals, articles and book chapters and open access content. Primarily covering sciences, including energy, technology and medicine. 

Get started by using the Make the most of your access to ScienceDirect pdf


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