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Health & Medicine

Your guide to finding high quality academic literature.


What is a database?

  • The Library databases are searchable online indexes that provide access to scholarly journals, full-text articles, magazines, conference papers, and other publications.

  • Some databases cover a single subject area, others cover many different subject areas.

  • Library databases are usually the best tools for finding journal articles in your subject area.

When to use the databases

Database searching works best when:

  • You have a clear idea of what you are looking for, and the key words that describe it.
  • You have enough background knowledge about your topic to quickly recognise relevant articles in your search results.

If you are new to your subject or just starting your information search, the databases may not be the best place to begin.

Before you start searching for journal articles, try reading about your topic in
     - your lecture notes

     - your set text or other introductory texts

     - any required or recommended reading for your unit

The more background knowledge you have, the easier your database search will be.

Know what you're searching

The key to choosing the right databases is knowing what's behind the search box.  Just as you wouldn't search for a movie trailer at or for tomorrow's weather forecast using YouTube, you won't have much success if you search for engineering information in a business database, or for journal articles using the book catalogue.

Things to consider:

  • What subject area/s does the database cover?
    Some databases cover a single subject area, other cover a range of subjects (multi-discipline databases).  Make sure you chose databases with good coverage of your topic.

  • What types of material are included?
    Most databases (except the Library catalogue) will include scholarly journal articles, but some will also contain other types of documents, like books and book chapters, newspaper or magazine articles, conference papers and theses.
  • What date range is covered?
    Most databases cover articles published in the last twenty or thirty years, up to the present day.  Others aim for historical coverage but may not include the most recent 5 years or so.

  • Does the database include full text?
    Some databases are collections of full text articles, while others are indexes that only show you a citation and abstract for each article.  Don't just choose the full text databases though, because the index-only databases are often the most subject focused.  Also, you may find that the Check full text @ UTAS links will link you to the online article anyway.

MegaSearch is the all-in-one search tool that searches across UTAS Library collections for books, DVDs, journal articles, conference papers, theses, and other items.

For more targeted results, use the Refine results panel on the left of the MegaSearch results screen

MegaSearch is main search box on the Library homepage.

Subject databases cover the scholarly literature in one just subject or related group of subjects.

Use them when you need to target your search to a specific subject. 

To find databases by subject

  • choose from the suggested databases on the Library Subject Guides

To find a database by name

Multi-disciplinary databases cover a range of different academic subjects.  

Some databases claim to cover all major subject areas, while others might cover a related group of subjects (i.e. science, or the humanities).

These are useful for general or cross-disciplinary research topics, and for exploring a topic at the beginning of your research process.

Pros: breadth of coverage, can be good place to start when you're not sure what database to choose
Cons: lack of depth, limited range of search modification options

The Library catalogue does not index journal articles, but it is the best (and fastest) way to find

  • Books
  • CDs and DVDs
  • Music scores
  • Theses

You will find the Library catalogue next to MegaSearch on the Library homepage.

Can't I just Google?


Alright, we get it - everybody loves Google (even librarians).  It's easy, fast, convenient, and usually a pretty good place to start looking for information.  But if you only use Google to do university level research, you will not find the best information for your studies.

Here are some good reasons why you should also use the library:


  • ​Have you ever found a great article online and then discovered that you have to pay to view it?  This happens because online does not always mean free, and most of the best scholarly research is only available if you subscribe to the right academic journals.
  • The good news is that the Library subscribes to thousands of these journals for you (using your tuition fees).  When you use the library databases and authenticate with your UTAS username and password, they are all yours.

The Invisible Web

  • Contrary to popular belief, web search engines do not cover everything on the web.  In fact, some estimates of search engine coverage put the figure between 10% and 30% of web content (Devine & Egger-Sider, 2014).  The rest is hidden behind paywalls, passwords, or in files and formats that general purpose search engines can't reach.
  • Most library databases are part of the invisible web, so you can't access their content using Google.


  • How do you decide if a webpage is credible or not?  You may be able to figure it out, but wouldn't it be nice if you could choose from a range of the best and most scholarly resources for your subject?  This is exactly what the library databases provide.


Devine, J. & Egger-Sider, F., (2014). Going beyond Google again: strategies for using and teaching the invisible web. London: Facet Publishing.

What about Google Scholar?

Google Scholar can be more useful for university research than Google, because it focuses on scholarly publications and you can configure it to link to UTAS Library resources (using the Library links setting).


  • Google's web spiders have a pretty broad definition of what is 'scholarly'
  • It's hard to say exactly what is or is not indexed by Google Scholar, but it seems to have better coverage in science and medicine than in the humanities and social sciences.
  • Google Scholar still won't give you everything you need.  No single search engine or database will, so don't get stuck in the habit of using the same search tool for everything.  It pays to consider all your options.