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Literature searching for Medical and Dental Sciences

Activity 3: Databases - Introduction and Practical Exercise

Bibliographic databases are the most effective way of finding quality journal articles related to your subjects.  The databases index articles from a wide range of peer-reviewed journals and so act as a prior quality-control mechanism.  They give direct links to the full text of journals subscribed by the University as well as openly-available material.

Go to FindIt and use the Database Search link at the top of the screen.  Then either enter the database name and search, or use the A-Z option.  The following screenshot has ASSIA (Applied Social Sciences Indexes and Abstracts) as an example.

Database search option on FindIt Screen, with example of ASSIA database

This guide covers a core range of databases useful for searches in the Medical, Dental, Health and related fields.  Use the tabs on the right of the screen to learn more about each.  Databases are generally hosted on provider platforms which have a number of available options: Ovid hosts Medline, Embase and PsycInfo which are all relevant to medical studies.  CINAHL is on the EBSCO platform, which also hosts EconLit and Business Source Premier, which can be helpful for Health Economics topics.  Proquest provide many different databases: this guide concentrates on Social Science, and Nursing and Allied Health, database options.  Web of Science is technically also a platform for a range of databases such as the Science Citation Index and Social Science Citation Index: it also gives access to the referencing software tool Endnote Online which is recommended at University of Birmingham for undergraduate and taught postgraduate students (see Activity 4).

Ovid Medline is the core biomedical and medical database and is recommended particularly for any medical literature searches.  PubMed is a popular open web gateway to records for the same content.  University of Birmingham users are recommended to use Ovid Medline which offers easier links to full text articles where available, and direct export of results to referencing software.

For a list of journals indexed on Medline, see the US National Library of Medicine catalogue page .  The 'Journals currently indexed in Medline' option needs to be selected.

Practical Exercise:

Now choose one of the databases (eg Medline or Web of Science) in the following tabs on the right, 3A onwards.  Read or view how to do a search on that database.

  • Then: carry out a search using your own topic of interest or study 
  • Use the worksheet from Activity 2 if you have completed this section
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