Top-7 Academic Research Databases to Find Trusted Sources
The number one on our list is Google Scholar. Most students prefer this database to others because of its easy-to-use interface, a great number of free documents, and a wide range of subjects. From the most useful features of the usage of Google Scholar, we can name TOP-3 ones:
- “Cited by.” When looking for the materials for your research, you can see how many times the publication was cited or what other documents have cited to it. To do it, you just need to click on the “Cited by” button below the entry and find the full list of citing documents.
- Related sources. Google Scholar has a useful algorithm for offering related articles to the one you have searched for your research. In such a way, you can find multiple relevant documents in one searching seance.
- Save articles. While browsing the materials for your research, you have an opportunity to save the viewed articles for later by clicking the “My library” button.
JSTOR (Journal Storage) is a popular database for journals, books, and image searches. On the main page, you can see the entry field where you can search the materials by keywords or just topic. In case you are in need to do thorough research, you can use an advanced search. It allows investigating documents by multiple criteria such as item type (article, book, review, etc.), language, publication date, title, and subject. If you are hesitating about the topic for your research, you should know that the JSTOR database comprises 83(!) subjects to choose from.
JSTOR has a special service called ‘Shelf.’ Even if you have no paid (or free corporate) access to any journal, you can still read an article for free for 14 days. You can have only 3 articles simultaneously on your ‘shelf.’ To use this service, you should be registered on the website. Besides, JSTOR provides the possibility to read 100 articles per month for free.
Another database we want to share with you is Scopus. All articles that appear in Scopus search results are checked by the Content Selection & Advisory Board. All the documents should maintain their high quality, that's why they annually take a thorough checking.
If you want to use the Scopus database for your research, you will be amazed by the features like:
- Personal account. When creating a private profile, you can save your searches here and set notifications for the new publications in your field of study.
- Database of events. Scopus also provides information about different events and conferences in multiple disciplines.
- CiteScore tracker. Scopus annually counts the number of citations for a particular document during a 4-year period. It allows to see the citation impact of publications on the research.
In comparison with other databases, Scopus may seem a bit confusing and not so easy to use. However, they offer video guides to help you learn how to conduct the document search.
EBSCO Information Services is one of the largest providers, which comprises many research databases with academic magazines, books, and images that cover multiple subjects, including Business, Philosophy, Nursing, Psychology, Social Sciences, Education, and many others. The core advantages of using this database are:
- free access to full-text PDF files without downloading the document;
- instant book/article/magazine citation generating in 9 different styles;
- opportunity to enter your location and find the nearest university or library where you can find the required material if there is no one online;
- creating an account that allows you to save your search results, organize them with folders, share them with others, and access your search results remotely.
If you are a student of biomedical or life sciences faculty, then PubMed can become a great source for your further research assignments. This portal has had a huge influence on life sciences development as it gives free access for scientists to search for all the necessary information. The PubMed database will be a great choice for you thanks to these advantages:
- huge and reliable database of medical articles;
- comprises MEDLINE collection (which covers more than 75% of medical publications) and also PreMEDLINE (actual articles but not indexed yet), OLDMEDLINE (articles published in printed publications in 1953-1965) databases, and NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) books collection (more than 6000 books);
- free access to documents;
- user-friendly and intuitive website.
Research Gate is a relatively new database in comparison with the ones described by us earlier. It’s not only a source database with multiple disciplines' materials but also a social network where scientists can share their ideas and discuss them. The core peculiarities of this database are:
- Possibility to filter the search results not only by publication or author but also by question. It means that someone has mentioned your keywords in his question to other users.
- Communication with scientists. In case you have some questions or you are confused about some publications, you can ask for advice from other users as Research Gate is also a large social network.
- Opportunity to see how many references the publication has. You can click on the document in your search results and find out how many citations and references it has.
If you are looking for education-related documents, then ERIC is a perfect choice for you. This database comprises a wide range of materials in the education, teaching, and learning spheres. The website interface is pretty simple and laconic. However, if you have some questions about the search process, there is a comprehensive guide.
The search process on ERIC website is straightforward, and you can easily filter the results by:
- publication date;
- publication type;
- education level;
- and even audience and location.
In our source database list above, you can find only verified databases you can fully trust. In case you need more variants, you can also consult your institution. Each college/university should have a library where you can find some books or magazines for your research. You can also ask your professor about the online databases your institution provides access to.
Before starting the search process, think carefully about the main keywords for your research or simply enter the topic you need. Then, in most databases, you can filter the results by different criteria such as date of publication, discipline, type of source, etc.
Most databases comprise only credible sources, which include:
In some databases, there is an option to see how to cite the used source properly in MLA, AMA, Chicago, or other styles. If there is no such feature, you can use online citation generators for help.
Of course, it is impossible to check and read all the possible databases while examining the search results. But you can save time by doing such things:
- get acquainted with abstracts first, read the introduction and conclusion;
- check the table of contents to understand the scope of the document;
- use indexes to determine key terms and important names.
The classification of sources as primary, secondary, or tertiary shows if the author of the publication reports first-hand information or just describes the opinion and experiences of others.
- Primary sources provide a personal experience with the researched topic (photos, private letters, etc.)
- Secondary sources describe the data received from primary sources. It includes journal articles, biographies, reviews, academic books, etc.
- Tertiary sources index, compile or organize the previously described sources. They don’t provide original information, they just provide background data on primary and secondary sources. As tertiary sources could be considered guidebooks, dictionaries, manuals, etc.
For the research, it is better to use primary and secondary sources. The tertiary ones you can use at the start of your research to establish the background data.
First of all, consult with your professor if there are any time frames he would like to see in your research. If you are free to choose, there is some basic advice.
- for research in Art, Social Sciences, History, and Literature, use the materials published in the past 10 years;
- for research in fast-developing fields, it is recommended to use the sources published in the last 2-3 years in order to have more actual information about the newest discoveries and processes.