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Science

Database Selection

The kind of research you are doing, the discipline/s your research falls into and your progress in the research process will determine the database/s that can give you the best results.

Are you looking for broad-based results, possibly cross-disciplinary results? 

The field of Biology/Life Sciences spans many areas of study.  Some databases, such as BIOSIS Previews, encompass this broad focus, within the life sciences, covering Ecology and the Environment, Biomedicine and Agriculture.

The large multi-disciplinary databases such as Google Scholar or Scopus cover many scientific disciplines and also offer guidance as to the popularity of articles but if you are focusing on trending research or looking for highly cited articles, then Web of Science could be a better choice, as it also covers a broad range of disciplines but offers the widest range of citation tracking tools.  

Are you looking for more focused results within a specific discipline?

Databases such as PubMed or CAB Abstracts cover the broader Life Sciences area but in the main, focus on Medicine and Applied life sciences respectively, offering tools widely utilised in these areas such as PubMed’s MeSH index or CAB Abstracts’ CAB Thesaurus.

Database Comparison

Publisher

  • Clarivate

Why use it?

  • Strong focus on life sciences and related areas
  • Ability to search specialised index fields including organisms, diseases, methods, geological time

Estimated size

  • 18 million references

Subject areas

  • Agriculture
  • Biochemistry
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedicine
  • Biophysics
  • Biotechnology
  • Botany
  • Ecology
  • Medicine
  • Microbiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Zoology

Time covered

  • 1926 to present

Content type

  • Journals (approx. 5 300)
  • Grey literature
  • Patents
  • Books
  • Pre-clinical and experimental research, methods and instrumentation
  • Animal studies

Specialised search options

  • BIOSIS indexing. Each record is assigned at least one Major Concept (identify the main focus of the article e.g Immune system) and Concept Code (represent broad biological concepts e.g. Genetics). Other key information that is noted where relevant includes: taxonomic data, disease data, chemical data, gene name data, parts and structure data. These fields are searchable using the "Topic" search, and some can be searched individually (e.g. Taxonomic data).  
Publisher
  • Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI)
Why use it?
  • Strong focus on applied life sciences
  • CAB Thesaurus searching
Estimated size
  • 8.9 million references
Subject areas
  • Agriculture
  • Environment
  • Veterinary sciences
  • Applied economics
  • Food science and nutrition
Time covered
  • 1910 to present (archive covers 1910-1972)
Content type
  • Journals
  • Grey literature
  • Books
  • Field notes
  • Conference papers
  • Reviews
  • News articles
  • Reports
Specialised search options
  • Records in this database are assigned subject terms from the CAB Thesaurus. The terms (nearly 3 million) cover: 1. general terms (e.g. countries, methodology), 2. physical, earth and life sciences 3. applied science and technology, 4. social sciences and humanities.
Publisher
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine
Why use it?
  • Strong focus on Biomedical & life sciences
Estimated size
  • 28 million references
Subject areas
  • Biomedicine
  • Health
  • Life science
  • Behavioural sciences
  • Chemical sciences
  • Bioengineering
Time covered
  • Early 1800s to present
Content type
  • Journals
  • Books
  • Clinical trials
Specialised search options
  • Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) indexing. When you carry out a keyword search, PubMed automatically includes relevant MeSH terms.
  • askMEDLINE, a natural language query tool
Publisher
  • Clarivate
Why use it?
  • Multidisciplinary peer-reviewed, curated content
  • Graphical representation of article citations & trends
Estimated size
  • 33,000 journals
Subject areas
  • Sciences
  • Social sciences
  • Arts
  • Humanities
Time covered
  • 1900 to present
Content type
  • Journals
  • Books
  • Conference proceedings
Specialised search options
  • Citation tracking
  • Cited reference searching
  • Graphical citation tracking
  • Lemmatisation (locating all inflected forms of a word by searching on the root word)
Publisher
  • Elsevier
Why use it?
  • Broad, multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed content
  • Tools to identify emerging research trends
Estimated size
  • 70 million articles
  • 16 Million author profiles
Subject areas
  • Life Sciences
  • Physical Sciences
  • Social sciences
  • Health Sciences
  • Arts and humanities
Time covered
  • Early 1800s to present
Content type
  • Journals
  • Books
  • Conference papers
  • Patents
Specialised search options
  • Citation tracking
  • Cited reference searching
Publisher
  • Google
Why use it?
  • Free to search
  • Broad coverage
  • 'Tends to' return highly cited articles first
Estimated size
  • > 160 million documents as at 2014, (* Orduna-Malea, Ayllón, Martín-Martín, & Delgado López-Cózar, 2015)
Subject areas
  • Broad coverage of multiple disciplines
Time covered
  • Broad but details unknown
Content type
  • Journals
  • Theses
  • Books
  • Conference papers
  • Patents
  • Court opinions
  • Other
Specialised search options
  • Citation tracking
  • Advanced search
  • Lemmatisation (locating all inflected forms of a word by searching on the root word)

* Orduna-Malea, E., Ayllón, J. M., Martín-Martín, A., & Delgado López-Cózar, E. (2015). Methods for estimating the size of Google Scholar. Scientometrics. doi:10.1007/s11192-015-1614-6