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Getting Started in the Library

A guide for new students at the University of Tasmania


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.


Find databases by subject​

Select a subject from the menu and click Go


'How to' - Database tutorials and search help

If you'd like guidance on how to use the different databases, it is best to use the databases' integrated Help function. It will include information on how to search the database via video or text tutorials and outline what search functions (e.g operators, wildcards, controlled vocabulary) are available in the database. Below are some examples on where you normally can find the Help function.


If you can't find what you are looking for within the database, you may like to go to a search engine like Google and search for a video tutorial, e.g. PubMed video tutorial.


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.