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Database Selection for Biologists

Selecting Which Library Databases to Search

Choosing the best database to search is often a challenge.  Here are some questions to consider when choosing which databases to search:

What Topics Are Covered?   
Is it a specialized database covering a specific subject - e.g. zoology, biophysics, neuroscience, medicine? or does it provide more general coverage?

What Kinds of Documents Are Indexed?   

  • Journals, magazines, books, book chapters, dissertations, images, maps, geospatial data, statistical tables, sounds files?
  • Scholarly, popular – or both?

What Time Periods?
1997-present?  Or all the way back into the 1800’s?  And how frequently is it updated – daily, weekly, monthly?

What Is the Overall Scope of the Database?
Some of the libraries’ databases (e.g. Pubmed, Worldcat) provide citations to tens of millions of records while others cover just a handful of journals (e.g. BioOne).