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Online Databases for Research: Guide to the Best Free & Paid DBs

  • Written By: Cheyenne Kolosky
The Full Guide To Online Databases For Research

The Full Guide To Online Databases For Research

Online databases have become essential tools for researchers in various fields. They offer easy access to a vast amount of information, including academic journals, scientific studies, business reports, government, and medical records. 

In this guide, we will explore the world of online databases and provide you with valuable insights on how to use them effectively for your research needs. But first things first, let’s take a look at how online databases revolutionized research, and what they are. 

What are Online Databases?

In the past, researchers had to rely on physical libraries and manually search through countless books and journals to find relevant information. This process was not only time-consuming but also limited the scope of research to what was available locally.

An online database, on the other hand, is a digital repository that stores and organizes vast amounts of information, making it easily accessible to users across the globe. They help researchers with: 

  • Storing large volumes of data 
  • Searching capabilities
  • Sorting and organizing data
  • Filtering data 
  • And data visualization tools.

These databases can also be discipline-specific, covering areas such as academic research, scientific data, business analytics, and medical records. And with the features and discipline-specific organization, this allows researchers to save a significant amount of time. 

The Top Reasons Online Databases Drive Better Thinking

The significance of online databases in research cannot be overstated. Here are a few reasons of why they are so paramount for researchers: 

  • They provide them with quick and efficient access to high-quality, peer-reviewed data and scholarly articles. 
  • They allow them to expedite their work.
  • They allow them to access recent findings.
  • They help establish a solid foundation for their own studies.
  • They foster collaboration among them.
  • They allow for the sharing and dissemination of knowledge.
  • They allow them to contribute to the collective body of knowledge in their respective fields.
  • They can leverage online databases to extract meaningful insights and identify patterns that would otherwise be impossible to uncover.

Furthermore, online databases have democratized access to information. In the past, access to certain resources was limited to those who could afford expensive subscriptions or had access to prestigious institutions. With online databases, anyone with an internet connection can access a wealth of information, leveling the playing field and promoting inclusivity in research.

As technology continues to advance, online databases will play an even more significant role in shaping the future of research. But now that we understand what online databases are, and why they are so crucial, let’s look at the different types of online databases for research. 

The 4 Main Types of Online Databases for Research

Online databases come in various forms, tailored to meet the specific needs of different research disciplines. Let’s explore some of the commonly used types:

Academic Databases

Academic databases are designed to cater to the needs of scholars across different fields. These databases act as virtual libraries, allowing researchers to access a vast collection of information from the comfort of their own computers. They provide access to:

  • Peer-reviewed articles
  • Conference papers
  • Dissertations
  • And other scholarly works. 

Academic databases allow researchers to search for articles based on specific keywords, authors, or publication dates, making it easier and more efficient for scholars to find relevant sources and build upon existing knowledge.

They can also utilize advanced search filters like citation tracking to narrow down their results and find the most relevant and recent publications. Here are 20 examples of online academic databases for research:

Academic DatabaseWhat it Contains
JSTOR (Journal Storage)Journals covering various disciplines, mainly on humanities and social science research.
PubMedThe MEDLINE database of references and abstracts on life sciences and biomedical topics.
Web of ScienceHigh-quality research information across all disciplines. It includes features like citation tracking and ranking articles by impact.
Google ScholarFull text or metadata of scholarly literature across an array of disciplines.
Academic Search Premier (EBSCO)Journal articles and other resources from various disciplines, including the physical sciences, social sciences, humanities, and more.
ScopusPeer-reviewed literature, scientific journals, books, and conference proceedings in the fields of science, technology, medicine, the social sciences, the arts, and the humanities.
ProQuestDissertations, newspapers, and magazines across subjects like business, health and medicine, social sciences, arts and humanities, education, science and technology, and religion.
PsycINFO (APA PsycNet)Abstracts of scholarly journal articles, book chapters, books, and dissertations in behavioral science and mental health.
ScienceDirectJournal articles and book chapters, mainly on sciences and social science. 
ArXivScientific papers in the fields of mathematics, physics, astronomy, computer science, quantitative biology, statistics, and more.
IEEE XploreDocuments from publications in computer science, electrical engineering, electronics, and related disciplines.
ERIC Research and information sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education.
SpringerLinkScientific documents from journals, books, series, protocols, reference works, and proceedings mainly on science, technology, and medicine. 
Cochrane LibraryIndependent evidence to inform healthcare decision-making, including the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and Cochrane Clinical Answers.
Agricola (Agricultural Online Access)Agricultural literature created by the National Agricultural Library and its cooperators.
BioMed CentralPeer-reviewed open access journals on biology, medicine, and health, including broad-interest titles and specialist journals.
PhilPapersBibliography of philosophy, including journals, books, open-access archives, and personal pages maintained by academics.
PLOS (Public Library of Science)Open access journals and other scientific literature under an open content license.
SocArXivFree and publicly accessible platform for social scientists to upload working papers, preprints, and published papers.
ChemRxiv Repository of chemistry and related areas.

And these aren’t the only databases that you will find out there. So, if you’re a researcher, get to digging! Now let’s look at a few examples for scientific databases.  

Science Databases

Science databases focus on scientific research and encompass a wide range of subjects, including:

  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • And environmental sciences. 

These databases play a crucial role in advancing scientific knowledge by providing researchers with access to scientific journals, experimental data, and research findings. And they don’t only provide access to published articles but also include preprints, which are preliminary versions of research papers that have not yet undergone peer review. 

This allows researchers to access cutting-edge research before it is officially published, promoting collaboration and the exchange of ideas within the scientific community. Additionally, these databases often offer tools for data analysis, enabling researchers to explore and interpret complex scientific data. Let’s look at some examples.

Scientific DatabaseWhat it Contains
PubMedThe MEDLINE collection of references and abstracts on life sciences and biomedical subjects.
Web of ScienceCitation tracking for articles, allowing users to trace who has cited certain works.
ScienceDirectScientific and medical research articles and book chapters, mainly on the subjects of the physical sciences, life sciences, and health sciences.
ScopusAn abstract and citation database for peer-reviewed literature, including journals, books, and conference proceedings.
IEEE XploreArticles from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers mainly for electrical engineering and computer science research.
ACS PublicationsAccess to chemistry journals and magazines by the American Chemical Society. 
BioMed CentralOpen-access database offering research articles in biology, medicine, and health. 
ArXivUsed for physics, mathematics, computer science, and quantitative biology preprints.
ChemRxivA free submission repository for the global chemistry community, allowing researchers to share findings before formal peer review.
AgricolaA key resource for agricultural and related sciences managed by the National Agricultural Library. 
GeoRefGeosciences database managed by the American Geosciences Institute. 
PLOS (Public Library of Science)Open access publisher, providing articles in areas of biology, medicine, and specific subfields of other sciences.
NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)A digital library for researchers in astronomy and physics. 
GenBankAnnotated collection of all publicly available DNA sequences.
Environmental Science and Pollution ManagementIt covers environmental sciences and pollution management, providing abstracts and references to scientific journals.
Zoological RecordAn interface that provides comprehensive coverage of zoological literature.
MathSciNetIt provides reviews, abstracts, and bibliographic information on the topics of mathematical sciences literature managed by the American Mathematical Society. 
Biosis Previews Coverage of life sciences research from journals, meetings, books, and patents.
SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)A digital library for physics and astronomy, curated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and NASA.
Oceanic AbstractsCovers marine biology and physical oceanography, fisheries, aquaculture, meteorology, and geology.

While these articles and databases offer an extensive amount of scientific information, there is more out there and it looks like these databases will forever grow. Now let’s take a look at some business databases you could also consult. 

Business Databases 

Business databases provide access to market research reports, financial data, industry trends, and case studies. These databases are invaluable resources for entrepreneurs, market analysts, and business students who need to make informed decisions based on accurate and up-to-date information.

Business databases often include company profiles, which provide detailed information about a company’s history, financial performance, key executives, and competitors. This information is crucial for: 

  • Conducting market research
  • Identifying potential business opportunities
  • And understanding the competitive landscape. 

Business databases also offer industry reports that provide in-depth analysis of specific sectors, helping professionals stay informed about market trends, consumer behavior, and emerging technologies. Let’s look at some examples: 

Business DatabaseWhat it Contains
Business Source Premier (EBSCO)Full-text for thousands of scholarly business journals, trade publications, and magazines. 
ProQuest Business CollectionCoverage of business topics with access to journals, newspapers, and dissertations.
JSTOR Business Numerous journals related to business and economics.
Factiva Business news with content delivery tools and services, mainly containing news, photographs, and business information.
MarketResearch.comMarket intelligence products, services, and data on products, trends, regions, demographics, etc.
StatistaStatistics and studies from more than 22,500 sources.
IBISWorldIndustry market research reports, industry risk rating reports, and business environment profiles.
Mergent OnlineBusiness and financial data on global publicly listed companies, including business history, executive contact details, financial data, and more.
S&P Global Market IntelligenceOffers financial news, data, and analytics.
Hoover’sCompany profiles containing company overviews, histories, products, financials, and additional insights.
Emerald InsightJournals, books, and case studies covering a wide range of business disciplines such as accounting, finance, HR, marketing, and operations.
PitchBook Specializes in data on venture capital, private equity, and M&A transactions.
Datastream (Refinitiv)Provides financial and economic data and analytics.
Bloomberg TerminalProvides access to the Bloomberg Professional service, through which users can monitor and analyze real-time financial data.
GartnerInsights into IT, marketing, HR, supply chain, and other business operations.
Passport by EuromonitorBusiness intelligence on industries, countries, and consumers, access to statistics, market reports, company profiles, and more.
ORBISGlobal company information, including financials, executives, and detailed structures.
Thomson ONEFinancial data on public companies, as well as merger and acquisition information and market data.
Nexis Uni A wide range of business resources, including news, business, and company information.
RMA eStatement StudiesFinancial statement data and other relevant financial and operational data for various industries.

It’s easy to say that if you’re just starting out of thinking of starting a business, or you’re a seasoned pro, your business could benefit immensely from these business databases. But these aren’t the only type of database, so let’s look at medical databases and some examples. 

Medical Databases

Medical databases focus on healthcare research and provide access to clinical trials, patient records, medical literature, and drug information. They enable healthcare professionals to stay informed about the latest developments in medical science and make informed decisions about patient care. 

Furthermore, these databases include diagnostic tools and medical calculators, which aid healthcare professionals in making accurate diagnoses and treatment decisions. These databases also provide access to drug databases, which contain information about medications, their indications, dosages, and potential side effects. 

Lastly, researchers can utilize medical databases to conduct systematic reviews and meta-analyses, which help summarize and evaluate existing research on a particular medical topic. So, let’s look at some examples of databases that are available in the market today. 

Medical Databases What it Contains
PubMedThe MEDLINE database of references and abstracts on life sciences and biomedical topics, managed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
EMBASEA biomedical and pharmacological database, especially on drug-related information.
Cochrane LibraryHigh-quality, independent evidence to inform healthcare decision-making, including systematic reviews and clinical trials.
Web of ScienceCoverage in the biomedical sciences, which is useful for citation tracking.
ScienceDirectIt provides articles in health and life sciences.
PsycINFOWhile it focuses on psychology, it also covers related medical, psychiatric, and health topics, managed by the APA.
ClinicalTrials.govInformation on publicly and privately supported clinical studies on a wide range of diseases and conditions.
BioMed CentralOpen-access journals in biology and medicine.
Google Scholar Free scholarly articles from various disciplines, including medicine.
CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature)An authoritative source for nursing and allied health literature.
ScopusAn abstract and citation database that covers health and life sciences. 
UpToDateAn evidence-based clinical decision support resource used by healthcare practitioners to aid in patient care.
BMJ Best PracticeThe latest information when making diagnosis and treatment decisions.
DynaMedA clinical reference tool created by physicians for physicians and other healthcare professionals for use primarily at the point of care.
ACP Journal ClubA publication of the American College of Physicians that summarizes the most clinically relevant articles from the biomedical literature.
Joanna Briggs Institute EBP DatabaseA range of resources, including evidence-based recommended practices, evidence summaries, best practice guidelines, and more.
Drug Information PortalInformation on over 81,000 drugs from the National Library of Medicine and other government agencies.
Gale Health and WellnessFull-text medical journals, magazines, reference works, multimedia, and much more.
TOXNETDatabase on toxicology, hazardous chemicals, and related areas, it’s now integrated into other National Library of Medicine products.
OMIMCompendium of human genes and genetic phenotypes, focusing on inherited conditions.

It’s easy to say that there are millions of articles, research reports, studies, journals, and more that you can look up to further enhance your own research. And now that we have understood what online databases are, and the different types available, let’s take a look at how you can access them. 

How to Access Online Databases

As we have seen, online databases are available in multiple forms of access. The main three types of access to databases are free databases, paid databases, and library access. Let’s look at each of these in a bit more detail. 

Free Databases 

When it comes to free databases, it’s important to keep in mind that while they may provide a starting point for your research, they often have limitations. For example, they may not have access to the latest research articles or provide full-text access to certain publications. However, they can still be a valuable resource, especially for general information or preliminary research.

Paid Databases 

Paid databases offer a wealth of information that is regularly updated and curated by experts in the field. They may also offer advanced search features, citation tools, and other functionalities that can enhance your research process.

While they require a subscription or access fee, they are often worth the investment for those  who rely on up-to-date information. Many universities, research institutions, and organizations provide access to these databases as part of their resources, so it’s worth checking if you have access through your affiliation.

Library Access to Databases

Many libraries provide access to online databases for their patrons. And they are not limited to a specific subject area, so you are likely to find relevant resources. By utilizing these resources, you can take advantage of a wide range of databases without incurring additional costs.

Accessing databases through the library usually requires a library card or an institutional login. Once you have obtained the necessary credentials, you can access the databases either on-site at the library or remotely from your own device. 

In addition, librarians are trained professionals who can help you navigate databases, refine your search strategies, and locate relevant resources for your specific research needs. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your local librarian for guidance and support!

Build You Own! 

Don’t forget in this modern age you can easily build your own database with no coding skills required. If your organization needs an internal wiki or document repository that connects all the dots between external data, internal research, and a variety of business use cases a customizable online database can be a great solution to drive change internally. For example many local governments utilize our online government database apps to easily manage their work with local constituents.  

Top 7 Tips to Navigate Online Databases

When conducting research online, accessing and utilizing online databases can be a game-changer. These databases provide a vast array of information from various sources, making them an invaluable resource for researchers, students, and professionals alike. 

However, to get the most out of these databases, it is essential to navigate through them effectively and efficiently. So to further enhance your knowledge on databases here are some tips to streamline your searches:

  • Consider combining your keywords with Boolean operators such as “AND,” “OR,” and “NOT,” to help you retrieve more specific and relevant information. 
  • Use quotation marks for exact phrases to refine your search and ensure that the results match your specific needs.
  • Utilize the various filters and sorting options to further refine your search results. 
  • Familiarize yourself with the database’s features and functionalities to make the most of your research experience.
  • Use the index system which categorizes data based on specific criteria, such as subject, author, or publication date. 
  • Broaden your search terms to look at what other information is available, such as “Science” or “History,”. 
  • Check to see if you can search within the title, abstract, or full text of an article. 

By utilizing advanced search techniques, such as Boolean operators and quotation marks, and taking advantage of filters and sorting options, you can streamline your searches and retrieve more accurate results. 

Additionally, understanding the unique structure and organization of each database, including the indexing system, subject categories, and relevant search fields, will enable you to navigate through them effectively and retrieve the most relevant information for your research.

The 4 Factors to Consider the Credibility of Online Databases

When conducting research online, it is essential to ensure that the databases you rely on provide accurate and trustworthy information. With the abundance of information available on the internet, it can be challenging to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources. 

However, by considering a few key criteria, you can evaluate the credibility of online databases effectively. So in order to do this, consider this criteria:

  • Look for databases that obtain their data from reputable sources, such as scholarly journals, government publications, or well-known research institutions. 
  • Consider whether the database has a rigorous peer-review process which involves subjecting research articles to the scrutiny of experts in the field before publication. 
  • Check for clear citation information for the articles or studies, which will allow you to trace the origins of the information and verify its accuracy. 
  • Consider the database’s coverage of your specific research area which will help you find comprehensive and diverse information for your research. 

By following these four main tips, you should be able to track the credibility of the material you are reading. But to really go in depth on what you should look out for, here are some red flags you should keep in mind. 

Common Red Flags in Online Databases

While evaluating online databases, it is crucial to be aware of certain red flags that may indicate a lack of credibility or reliability. Here are some of the most common examples:

  • If the database does not clearly state where it obtains its information or if the sources are questionable, it is wise to approach the database with caution. 
  • Non-peer-reviewed content in the database, which may indicate a lower level of credibility. 
  • Databases that display outdated information. Cross-checking the information you find in multiple reputable sources can help ensure accuracy and reliability.

Remember, thorough evaluation of online databases is a vital step in ensuring the quality of your research and the validity of your findings. 

As technology continues to advance, online databases are evolving to meet the changing needs of researchers. For example, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is enhancing search capabilities, automating data analysis, and providing personalized recommendations. They also help researchers discover hidden patterns and make connections within vast amounts of data. As we move into this bright future expect businesses to integrate ever more data into their 

Furthermore, the emergence of big data has helped us gain the ability to store and process massive volumes of data which researchers can access. The integration of big data analytics into online databases is expected to drive innovation and pave the way for groundbreaking discoveries. 

Last Thoughts Finding The Right Online Databases for You

Online databases provide researchers with a wealth of information and resources at their fingertips. By understanding how to navigate, evaluate, and utilize these databases effectively, researchers can enhance the quality and efficiency of their work. 

Stay up-to-date with emerging trends and continually explore new databases to ensure you harness the full potential of online databases in your research endeavors. We hope you find what you’re looking for! If you would like to build your own custom database for your organization, sign up for a free trial today