Multidisciplinary databases

There are two major databases, Scopus and Web of Science, which cover all the fields of science. They both are founded on a wide array of scientific publications. Therefore their size is a lot bigger than other databases available.

Their contents, however, are overlapping. Both databases contain the most important recognised journals, but also include some unique content of their own.

The use of these databases is based on subscription. UEF library has purchased access to Scopus as a whole and Web of Science from 1975 onwards.

The search possibilities in both databases are diverse, including for instance the use of proximity operators. The bibliometric features, like citation count and the h-index, are important parts of these databases.

Here are the description of contents, search technical details as well as links to tutorial videos of these databases.

Other sources

The ProQuest databases can be searched as one database, which makes it the third large, multidisciplinary database. There are several sub-databases and database collections available in ProQuest. These are described under the discipline-specific database pages.

Open the database in a new tab in UEF-Primo: ProQuest.

Comparison of Scopus and Web of Science

See the article by Singh et al. (2021) for detailed comparison of the journal coverage of these two major databases.

The article also deals with a third multidisciplinary information source, Dimensions, which offers an open access reference database. Its coverage is competitive with the other two, but the search properties of the free version are limited. Open Dimensions homepage (link opens in a new tab).

What about Google Scholar?

Where does Google Scholar stand in relation to Scopus and Web of Science? In their paper Alberto Martín-Martín et al. (2018) compared these three sources according to the capability to find the citing articles of a group of highly cited papers in different fields of science. The results show that Google Scholar could find clearly more citing articles than the other two.

This might indicate, that the coverage of Google Scholar as a search engine, too, is better than Scopus or Web of Science. The differences among disciplines were rather big. The biggest overlapping of all three sources was found in natural sciences and the biggest percentage of unique citations in humanities and social sciences. The main reason is, that in natural sciences the citations are mainly peer-reviewed articles, which are the main focus of reference databases like Scopus and Web of Science. In humanities and social sciences, types of publications used is more varied.

Still, there are reasons why Google Scholar should not be the only search engine while performing searches for research literature:

  • there are some unique materials in Web of Science and Scopus (and other databases), too
  • the quality of documents that Google Scholar finds is poor sometimes, since there is no proper curation in selection of sources
  • there is no listing of Google Scholar’s journal coverage available
  • there are a lot of predator journals among Google Scholar search results
  • as a search engine, Google Scholar is not very effective: it easily finds some very good results, but is poor for gathering comprehensive information – at least the selection of all the good results among the whole result list might be very laborious
  • building of a comprehensive query with many multiple terms connected in a complex way is not possible
  • there are not many handy filters available in Google Scholar
  • same articles appear multiple times in the result list
  • the repeatability of Google Scholar queries is impossible, since the search result is not affected by the query only, but many other variables, too

Google Scholar can thus be recommended for a quick search as a start, when only something (not everything) is needed, and also as a complementary resource for non-peer-reviewed publications.

(LP 2/2024)

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