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Health & Medical: Using Health databases

A collection of information resources and guidance for Health & Medical students

What are databases?

Wordcloud of the titles of various databases.

Databases are structured, subject-specific tools for searching for information (generally journal articles, but can include other information sources). If you are doing an in-depth search, it is better to use these rather than LibrarySearch or a general internet search engine. They can search through high-quality information more effectively.

Some databases can be accessed free on the web. Others are paid for by your University.

Accessing databases through your university

Each university maintains a list of databases which can be accessed by students and staff. The links on these pages are checked and updated regularly.

Featured database - Cochrane

The Cochrane Library is a go-to source for systematic reviews and reports of clinical trials. See this video for a quick overview of how to use it:

Other databases

There are hundreds of databases available, but you don't need to use all of them! However, if you are doing an assignment on a highly specialised topic, or carrying out a literature review, you may need to go beyond the core databases mentioned on this page.

Help is at hand! See the More Databases page for a much longer list of useful health-related databases. See also the On the web page for various websites which can help you locate documents such as guidelines, policies, statistics etc.

Key databases for health

These are the most well-known and well-used databases for health and medical care.  See the separate box for a longer list of more specialised databases.

  • CINAHL (available via CCCU, Greenwich and Kent) - covering nursing and allied health, with information for almost every possible health, medical and social care profession. 
  • The Cochrane Library - includes databases of systematic reviews and clinical trials. Cochrane are viewed as world leaders on evidence-based information. It is well worth searching the site for any question to do with an intervention (curative, diagnostic or palliative).
  • Medline (available via CCCU, Greenwich and Kent), contents also searchable via Pubmed - one of the biggest biomedical databases in the world.
  • PsycInfo (available via CCCU, Greenwich and Kent) - searches peer-reviewed information on psychology. Very useful for any topics connected to mental health and clinical psychology in addition to general psychology topics (communication, motivation, personality etc.).

See the More Databases page for a much longer list of useful health-related databases.

Searching databases - video guide

For more information on searching databases, see the Structured literature searching information on the Skills and Workshops page.

You may also find this video on using Pubmed, one of the best-known biomedical databases, useful.

MeSH terms

Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) terms are a tool used by a number of different databases to categorise the articles listed on them. This short video gives an overview of how to find them. The MeSH terms for any potential topic can be discovered using the MeSH search.