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Widening Participation at the University of Manchester Library: Databases


Databases provide access to up to date research in your field, which you may need to use in your own research projects and assignments. Such information will not always be found in textbooks, or provided for you by tutors.

The databases you can use are listed on the databases section on the external user computers. You can also find them on the Library subject pages, although you may not be able to access all of those listed.

Identifying search terms

Before you start to search databases, write down all the words that you can think of that relate to your topic; there are often lots of different ways of saying the same thing. For example, if you were doing a search on fish and chips, you might come up with a number of alternative search terms:

Fish  Chips
Cod French fries
Haddock Potato fries
Plaice Potato crisps
Seabass Potato croquettes


Searching similar keywords in different databases may reveal other terminology you may not have considered.

To help with this process you can download our Topic Search plan to fill out with your topic question, keywords and phrases which helps you to build your search and locate relevant information quickly.

Combining your search terms

Divide them into groups of words that:

  • you MUST have
  • you don’t mind having
  • you definitely don’t want

Remember the rules for AND, OR and NOT:

  • AND narrows the search
  • OR broadens the search
  • NOT excludes a term

My Learning Essentials

Getting started with subject databases

This resource explores some of the key features of subject databases, demonstrating that while they can initially appear daunting and complicated, they can be as easy to use as any online shopping site

View all workshops and online resources in this area on the
My Learning Essentials webpages.

What you should know about databases

  • Databases help you focus and streamline your information searches so that you can decide which articles are most relevant to your studies.
  • Most databases give articles’ abstracts (summaries), not the full text of articles. However, many databases now have their own collections of e-journals which they provide links to.
  • Some databases cover a longer time period than others.
  • Different databases have different subject emphases; they are not all the same. For example:
    • Web of Science covers many subject areas
    • PsycInfo covers psychology
    • ASSIA covers social sciences
    • Medline covers medicine
  • It may be appropriate to explore several subject guides to find databases appropriate for your research topics.
  • As with e-journals, be aware of the origin of the information you are using: overseas practices may be very different to that in the UK.
Creative Commons Licence This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Licence.

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