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Health Sciences Literature Searching: Choose a Database

Students and researchers in the health sciences often conduct comprehensive searches of the literature. The steps in this guide show how this process works.


Databases are search tools for locating articles, papers, reports, book chapters and more. Search by topic, author, or in a specific publication. Scholarly references are best found in databases.

Databases can be discipline specific (such as CINAHL) , or multidisciplinary (such as ProQuest). Many contain full text material, or the reference and abstract only.

Find more databases by browsing the database list by subject. Health Sciences databases.

Why Search Multiple Databases?

You need to search more than one database in order to:

  • minimize bias
  • cast a wide net to try and retrieve as many relevant studies as possible (within resource limits).
  • there is no single article database that indexes all the literature, not even MEDLINE

Sometimes you may find relevant articles in databases for other disciplines (e.g., leadership topics may require a Psychology database or a Business database, maybe even both databases.)


Journals are the primary medium for scholarly communication.

Journals contain collections of articles and are generally published on a regular basis (e.g. issues are released monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly etc.). They can be found via Library databases.


  • provide highly focused information
  • can be the source for the latest material on a topic
  • can sometimes be one of the few (or only) sources of scholarly information on a topic


There are different types of journals. Not all journals are suitable for your assignments.See table below:


from Virginia Tech Library