What databases should I search?

Think about these questions when reviewing databases to search for your topic:

  1. What subject matter does this database cover?
    • Are you looking purely for medical literature or is your topic multidisciplinary?
       
  2. What types of material does this database cover?
    • Do you need peer-reviewed articles only or are you looking for non-academic material or grey literature as well?

 

Top Databases
Health Science Focused Databases

CINAHL Complete
This is the definitive research tool for nursing and allied health professionals. 

PubMed
A free, public citation and absract database from the National Institute of Health and the National Library of Medicine. 

OT Focused Databases

OT Seeker
A database that contains abstracts of systematic reviews and randomised controlled trials relevant to occupational therapy.

OT Search
From the American Occupational Therapy Association, OT Search allows you to search a wide scope of materials specifically in and directly related to the field of occupational therapy. It includes information on all AOTA publications, including those that are not included in PubMed or any other database.

Multidisciplinary Databases

ProQuest Central
Searches a variety of databases including the Education Database, Family Health Database, Health & Medical Collection, Health Management Database, Nursing & Allied Health Database, and Public Health Database.

Psychology Databases

PsycNET
A collection of databases from the American Psychological Association. Through PsychNET, you can freely search PsycARTICLES and PsycBOOKS to see results from APA published journals and books. Click on “search” under the “New Users” heading to access the database.

PsycBITE
A database that catalogues studies of cognitive, behavioural and other treatments for psychological problems and issues occurring as a consequence of acquired brain impairment (ABI).

What is grey literature?

Grey literature typically refers to literature that has not been formally published.

Some examples include:

  • Policy and white papers
  • Conference proceedings
  • Government reports
  • Theses and dissertations
  • Newsletters
  • Technical notes
Grey Literature Resources
  1. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses
    • Collection of 4 million graduate dissertations and theses
       
  2. CINAHL
    • To find grey lit only, go to advanced search and under publication type select to see only certain publications like doctoral dissertations, masters theses, pamphlets, practice guidelines, proceedings, etc.
       
  3. PubMed
    • To find grey lit only, run your search and use the article type filter to narrow results to certain publications like government documents, technical reports, clinical conference, congresses, etc.
       
  4. BMC Proceedings
    • "online, open access journal publishing proceedings of conferences across all scientific and clinical disciplines, including peer-reviewed full-length articles, collections of abstracts and meeting reports"
       
  5. Digital Commons Network
    • Provides free access to full-text research from hundreds of universities and colleges worldwide. 
    • Includes: peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, dissertations, working papers, conference proceedings, and other original scholarly work
       
  6. NLM Bookshelf
    • From the National Library of Medicine. Provides free access to collections of books, reports, and other literature
       
  7. Grey Matters: a practical tool for searching health-related grey literature
    • Comprehensive guide on gray literature created by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technology Health
       
  8. OpenGrey
    • "a multidisciplinary European database, covering science, technology, biomedical science, economics, social science and humanities."
       
  9. SIREN: Social Interventions Research & Evaluation Network
    • "contains research articles, issue briefs, reports, and commentaries that either focus on or are relevant to evaluating health care based interventions that address patients' social and economic needs."
       
  10. Google Scholar
    • Can be used to find both published scholarly literature and grey literature.

A quick overview on grey literature from the University of Florida:

Tutorial on using Google Scholar to find grey literature from Flinders University:

How to find psychology literature?

Recommended Databases

PsycNET

A collection of databases from the American Psychological Association. Through PsychNET, you can freely search PsycARTICLES and PsycBOOKS to see results from APA published journals and books. Click on “search” under the “New Users” heading to access the database.

PsycBITE

A database that catalogues studies of cognitive, behavioural and other treatments for psychological problems and issues occurring as a consequence of acquired brain  impairment (ABI).

ProQuest Central

Searches a variety of databases including the Psychology Database, Education Database, Family Health Database, Health & Medical Collection, Health Management Database, Nursing & Allied Health Database, and Public Health Database.

Gale PowerSearch

A search of a variety of databases from Gale, including Psychology Collection, Academic OneFile, Health Reference Center Academic, and Nursing and Alllied Health Collection.

CINAHL Complete

This is the definitive research tool for nursing and allied health professionals. 

PubMed

A free, public citation and abstract database from the National Institute of Health and the National Library of Medicine. 

Building your search strategy

After you’ve developed your research question, you should build your search strategy to find literature on your topic:

  • Identify key concepts from your question
  • List search terms gathered from your key concepts
  • Brainstorm synonyms for each term
  • Combine terms to create your search string

Follow advice in the videos and worksheets on this page, as well as our Advanced Database Searching guide to help build your search strategy.

Search Strategy Worksheets

A search strategy worksheet may help you plan out a better search. Some examples are below.

Why document your searches?
  • Keeps your work organized
  • Helps you stay productive and not repeat searches you’ve done previously
  • Can reuse search strategies in the future to find new research on your topic
  • Necessary for describing your search process for some types of reviews like scoping and systematic reviews
Useful Tools
  • Search Tracker (Excel sheet)
    • From the University of Sydney
    • Use to keep track of your searches
    • Will need to edit to fit your specific searches and databases used
       
  • Evidence Analysis Log (Excel sheet)
    • From the Hirsh Health Sciences Library
    • Use to keep track of notes for each article/resource found in your literature review
       
  • "Save Search" or "Create Alert" Features in Databases
    • Most databases will let you save searches so you can review them later.
    • See the videos below on how to save searches in CINAHL and PubMed.
What to document?
  • Databases searched
  • Keywords and/or subject headings used
  • Years searched
  • Filters used (language, peer-reviewed, etc.)
  • Number of results
  • Date you conducted the search 
Saving Searches CINAHL

To save searches in CINAHL, you must create a MyEBSCOhost account.

To do that, follow these instructions.

Saving Searches PubMed

To save searches in PubMed, you must create a NCBI account. You can do that here

Why use a citation manager?

Citation managers are software tools that help you find, save, and organize the information sources (articles, books, etc.) you need. They do much more than simply generate a citation in a particular style, though they can do that, too!

A citation manager is great to use when you are working on a large writing project, like a dissertation or other capstone project, for which you need to keep track of many sources.

Zotero and Mendeley are both great citation managers that you can download for free. Watch our webinars on both to decide which one might be right for you!

Zotero
Mendeley