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Library Orientation Programme: Literature Databases - Session 2

Subject Databases - Session 2 - Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this section you will be able to

  • Demonstrate the ability to plan and adapt and successfully carry out a search. E.g. by broadening or narrowing, using keywords and synonyms.
  • Identify key sources of information in the subject area or context and have an awareness of different information types

[Level 1 Skill - Finding information in Library Research Skills Framework]

These Learning Outcomes will support you in achieving your module learning outcomes:-

Module SOES1013 Learning Outcome

  • C1 - Effectively use library resources, including via literature searches, and use of electronic catalogues.
  • LO1 - Produce a written report on a topic set by the tutor making use of library resources to support the report

Module SOES1014 Learning Outcome

  • C1 - Effectively use library resources, including via literature searches, and use of electronic catalogues.
  • LO2 Develop scientific writing skills, making use of library resources to support your writing

Module NATS1004 Learning Outcome

  • LO2 - How to locate, assess and integrate technical information and knowledge relevant to a given task by accessing a range of information sources (internet, books, journals, technical experts)



Watch the tutorials and read the information and complete the exercise in the order listed on this page.

You will need to:

  • create a search strategy to find literature for an assignment that you have been set by your tutor..
  • use Web of Science to find 5 references for an assignment that you have been set by your tutor. Email the references to your tutor to confirm that you have completed the exercise.

Why do I need to know about and use databases?

In the previous section you found out about using the library catalogue systems to find the items that you have been set to read by your lecturer or tutor. As an independent learner your lecturer or tutor will expect you to be curious about your subjects and to start looking for and discovering your own academic literature or information too. 

In addition to the library catalogue systems, while you are studying at University you have at your fingertips access to a selection of some of the most powerful and sophisticated literature and information search tools in the form of subject databases (also called journal databases, literature databases or library databases).

Watch this explanatory video (from Yavapai College Library) to discover what we mean by a subject database, and how they will help you with your research.  It examines:

  • what is available on the free web
  • what is available through library databases (subject databases)
  • using library databases for to find credible, good quality information

Preparing to search a database

This learning activity will help you to understand how to prepare an effective search of a database.

(Click on the image to go to the activity.)

By the end of this activity you should be able to:

  • explain what a search strategy is
  • identify key concepts and key words in a search question
  • use search tools and techniques, such as Boolean operators, phrase searching, and wild cards

Allow approximately 16 minutes to complete this learning activity.

Introduction to Web of Science

Now watch the Web of science video to familiarise yourself with using the database

  • Start at 7 mins 49 sec and watch to 31 mins for an explanation of searching for and filtering results.
  • Watch from 40 mins 09 secs to 43 mins for an explanation of using the marked list and exporting results.

[captions are available on the video]


Web of Science practical

Plan a search and then carry out the search on Web of Science for journal articles on your topic.


Part 1 - Plan the search

You will be planning the search to find information for an assignment set by your tutor for either SOES1013 or SOES1014 or NATS1004

You can download and use one of these search planners to capture your search strategy. 

Part 2 -  Carry out the search on Web of Science
  • Find and make a record of the details of 5 items from your list of results that you could read and use to help you complete your writing assignment set by your personal academic tutor

Click on 'Web of Science' to go to the database

Part 3 - send the results to your Personal Academic Tutor or Module Lead
  • students taking SOES1013 and SOES1014 should email the completed search planner document and the details of all 5 items from the Web of Science to your personal academic tutor
  • students taking NATS1004 should email the completed search planner document and the details of all 5 items from the Web of Science to your module lead Dr Rob Holland

This is to show your personal academic tutor or module lead that you have completed this learning activity and that you have found items which could be used to support your assignment.

Key Databases for Ocean and Earth Science

Web of Science is a multidisciplinary database and has a wide coverage for the sciences. There are other subject databases which concentrate on recording the literature of a much narrower but more specific area of a subject. The advantage to using these types of subject database is that you will get much more focused results.  These types of subject databases will be particularly helpful when you are finding information for your dissertation or thesis in your third or fourth year at university. It is worth taking a little time to explore what they have to offer.

These are the key subject databases available for you to use to find literature for ocean or earth sciences

(Click on the screen icon a stylised image of a presenter figure  next to the link to go to the online tutorial for the database and find out more)


Now go to the Reading and Evaluating section