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NHS: Databases

Subjects: Medicine

Introduction to database searching

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Databases are collections of resources such as journal articles and conference papers, and also sometimes book chapters and reports. If you are doing a literature search or systematic review they are a key resource to use.

There are two main kinds of database:

  • Bibliographic - these index what has been published for a particular subject area and are used to identify material that you might want to locate and study
  • Full text - as well as providing the bibliographic information they also provide access to the full text of the material you may wish to read

Use the NHS Knowledge and Library Hub to find journal articles, e-books trusted decision making tools and more. When searching using the Knowledge and Library Hub you will find links to the full text of articles when you look at your search results. If there is no link then you should see if it is available through the University of Oxford via e-Journals A-Z (you will need to be in a Bodleian Library).

NHS resources for advanced searching

For complex, robust and reproducible searches – including for systematic review and informing research – use the native interfaces EBSCO, Ovid and ProQuest for bibliographic databases such as Medline, Embase and CINAHL. These are accessible with your NHS OpenAthens account so you do not need to be in the library to use them.

For a walk-through of how each interface works, see our PDF guides below:

Here are links to further, video-format, training guides:

EBSCO Interface 

Basic searching

Advanced searching


Ovid Interface

Ovid NHS Resource Centre

Basic Search on Ovid

Ovid Advanced Search


ProQuest Interface

ProQuest NHS support page

Basic search

Advanced search tips

Choosing a database

Different databases are tailored to provide coverage of particular aspects of healthcare or disciplines. 

Below are some suggested databases.

You can access these databases via the original supplier interfaces by logging in with your OpenAthens account username and password when prompted. 

Systematic Review guidance for researchers

Tips and guides

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The following guides contain useful information and tips on how to conduct a database search.