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Science Honours: Where to search?

Subject databases - Why?

By this stage of your studies you will have discovered the wealth of scholarly information to be found in the Library's subject databases. Some of the advantages of using these (over Googling for example) are:

  • They contain mainly scholarly, or academic, studies which are suitable for you to reference
  • They often concentrate in a specialised area of study, so your results will be relevant
  • They have sophisticated search tools that allow you to hone your search effectively

Of course, searching in Google, or Google Scholar is quicker and easier, but if you learn to navigate the subject databases in your area you will reap the rewards, retrieving a smaller set of highly relevant, scholarly results.

In addition to subject databases, you might find using citation databases such as Scopus useful. And depending on the depth and subject matter of your research, it's worth considering some authoritative grey literature.

Below are some suggested databases for your School, but do check out our A-Z Databases list for a complete rundown. Be prepared to go outside your discipline area as well, depending on your research question. For example, if you are studying the educational aspects of nursing studies, check out an education database, such as ERIC. If you are researching the psychological effects of working as a paramedic, do some searching in a psychology database, such as PsychINFO.  For Australian studies, check Informit Online.

Suggested Subject Databases for Area of Study

Searching the 4 Main Database Platforms

EBSCOhost is a platform for about 30 databases covering most of the subjects taught at CSU. It includes a number of subject-specific databases, plus the multi-subject database Academic Search Complete.

In EBSCOhost, you can change from one database to another, or select multiple databases, by clicking on Choose Databases above the search boxes.

When you go to an EBSCOhost database, you should be in the Advanced Search screen.

EBSCOhost defaults to a keyword-search. If you type in ... tertiary education, this will search for tertiary AND education. To search for the phrase tertiary education, you need to enclose the words in double quotation marks ... "tertiary education".

The field(s) to be searched defaults to Select a Field (optional). This includes the main fields in the records. This varies from database to database but usually includes author, title, subject/keywords, and abstract. To specify a field to be searched, use the drop-down menu.

EBSCOhost defaults to sorting results by Relevance.

To see more information about each item, click on the Preview button to the right of the record. To add it into a folder, click on the Add to Folder button beside the Preview button.

To see the full record, and access various tools, click on the title of the item.

CSU Library has put together a series of subject packages of EBSCOhost databases including

ProQuest is a platform for nearly 100 databases covering most of the subjects taught at CSU. The database menu is organised in a hierarchical structure, with many of the top-level databases consisting of subsidiary databases.

ProQuest databases should default to the Advanced Search screen.

ProQuest defaults to a keyword-search. This means that if you wish to search for the keyword tertiary and the keyword education, you should type in tertiary education. If you wish to search for the specific phrase tertiary education, you should type in "tertiary education".

ProQuest defaults to searching in Anywhere except full-text

ProQuest defaults to sorting your results by Relevance.

To see, and go back to, the results of previous searches, click on the clock icon (Recent Searches) at the top right of screen. 

When you are in any ProQuest database, you can change the database(s) you are searching by clicking on the Change Databases link.

Informit is a platform of nearly 100 databases which have mainly Australian content. Some of these are databases of entirely full-text material. You get the option to change the database(s) you are searching using the Change Databases button. You can choose from a list of full-text databases or from a list of indexes. Many of the indexes do not contain current material (archives only). In the list of full-text databases, you can choose the option of Select databases I have access to (Charles Sturt subscribes to 10 of the 12).

You can use Basic Search or Advanced Search. Advanced Search offers much more functionality and more options. There is a useful set of Search Tips at the bottom of the Advanced Search Screen.

Informit is undergoing changes to its interface: if you have any questions about using Informit please contact the Library’s Science Faculty Team.

Ovid is a platform with lots of databases and with subject strengths in health and medicine, nursing, psychology, and earth sciences. It includes the databases MEDLINE, a number of EBM Reviews databases, PsycINFO, and CAB Abstracts.

In Ovid, you can change from one database to another, or select multiple databases from the menu, by clicking on Change in the Search panel.

Ovid databases should default to the Advanced Search screen. Here, the default is to a phrase search. If you wish to search for the keyword brain and the keyword injury, you should type in brain AND injury. If you wish to search for the specific phrase brain injury, you can type in brain injury (without quotation marks).

In Basic Search you can enter your topic in pretty much whatever words you like, and your results will be tagged and sorted by relevance.

Search History. Ovid always displays your previous searches in a table above the search box. If you can't see all of your previous searches, click on the Expand link at the top right of this table.

The Ovid search interface has options to search by keyword, author, title and journal, and to view your search history

Citation Databases

Citation databases offer an alternative way of searching, and can be very useful to find some extra studies. You can use citation databases to trace how a particular area of research has developed over time, which authors have had impact in the topic, or to delve into a rabbit hole of who has cited a paper and what references they themselves have used.

Here are some useful ways to use citation databases:

  • If you find a good article in your subject searching but think it may be a little old, pop the title into a citation database and find some newer articles on the topic by clicking on those who have cited that article. 
  • Use the citation database to check the reference lists of good articles. Reference lists are usually hyperlinked, which makes it easier to check individual citations. Any open access articles will link to the full text.
  • If you find a really good article in a citation database you think you should have found in your subject database, you can use it to test your search strategy. Why didn't you find it before? What keywords or subjects did it include that you didn't put into your search?

Charles Sturt University subscribes to two citation databases Scopus and Web of Science and you find out more about them by looking at the Citation database webpage and the Searching In Scopus page of this guide.

Grey literature

Depending on the depth of your research, and the type of information published (or not published) on your topic, you may need to include Grey Literature in your literature review.

Grey literature is “information produced by all levels of government, academics, business and industry in electronic and print formats not controlled by commercial publishing”. (GreyNet) and it includes such useful information as Clinical Practice Guidelines, Clinical Trials, Government and organisational reports, policy documents and theses.

The Library's Grey Literature guide gives a good rundown on finding and evaluating grey literature. Especially look at the specific discipline resources listed.

This is one area where it could be useful to do a Google search. But be sure to use Advanced Search to narrow your search to appropriate domains (such as .gov.au), file types, exact phrases and so on.

Grey Literature and credible health websites

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