Which Databases to Search?

Database vs. Platform

It’s important to understand the difference between a database versus a search platform. You’ll know that you search the appropriate databases, and you’ll be able to document the search correctly. Searches should be documented and reproducible in the context of evidence-based medicine.


A database indexes individual records with metadata. Records are searched through simple or complex queries. Bibliographic literature databases index scholarly literature. A search in a bibliographic literature database will return publications. Different databases index different sources, such as publishers and journals, and they vary in scope. A well-documented search in a database can be reproducible and transparent. Examples of a database: Embase, Scopus, Web of Science.


A platform is a search interface. It may host individual databases or simply act as a search engine. Platform searches are typically not reproducible, since it is unclear which databases were searched and how they were searched. Examples of a platform: EBSCOhost, ProQuest, Google, TRIP.

In addition to connecting with a librarian for recommendations of the best available resources, you might find that Google and Wikipedia are helpful. Perform some searches to identify recommended databases for your topic. Your librarian will be able to determine access for these resources.

It will be useful, if your goal is a thorough survey of the literature, to search more than one database. While there may be some overlap, each database indexes different sources and publishers.