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 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.

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.

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

In addition to Scopus and Web of Science, the ProQuest databases can be searched all together, in which case it is multidisciplinary as a whole. Open the database in a new tab in UEF-Primo: ProQuest.

SCOPUS

  • covers the years: 1788 onwards; the best coverage from 1996 onwards
  • covers the document types: mainly articles, but also books and book chapters, conference papers and some patent information
  • uses thesauruses: several, like MeSH, EMTREE medical terms, GEOBASE subject index, Engineering controlled terms, but not systematically

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

The Scopus database is the largest of the databases available: it contains over 80 million records (2022). Over 27 000 serial titles are currently active, and from those 35% represent social sciences and arts & humanities, 27 % physical sciences, 23% health sciences and 15 % life sciences. Read more about Scopus’s contents and policy from the article by J. Baas et al. (2020) (article opens in a new tab).

Scopus’s strength is the wide coverage of international and non-English publications along with the core peer-reviewed English-language journals. In addition to Anglo-American science, European and Asian science is also featured.

Scopus has a user-friendly interface that allows searching phrases either loosely or strictly.

Scopus’s weak point is the irregular use of thesauruses and indexing: several thesauruses are used, but not within all records. The thesauruses themselves are not available through Scopus.

Boolean operatorsProximity operatorTruncation * WildcardsPhraseStemming and spellingSearch fields to start with
OR-operation executes before AND and NOTW/n (no specific order)
PRE/n (given order)
beginning, middle, end? replaces one characterQuotation marks ” ” form a loose phrase; an exact phrase that eliminates all variation is done with braces { }are searched also within quotation marksTitle-Abstract-Keywords
Search technical specialties in Scopus

Search query example

The topic for this query is a (community’s) adaptability to social changes caused by climate change.

A screen capture of Scopus database Document search -form with some hints of using search techniques. Search query is: ((social OR societal OR socio-economic OR socioeconomic) PRE/3 (change OR transition)) AND (“global warming” OR “climat* change”) AND (vulnerability OR adaptability OR resilienc*). The query is written on three rows so that AND-operators are located between the rows.
Be extra careful with phrases combined with OR-operators: “global warming” OR “climat* change” is correct,
but global warming OR climat* change = global AND (warming OR climat*) AND change.

Video tutorials (links open in new tabs):

Document search & basic functions:
Searching with keywords in Scopus (3:52)

A comprehensive query model:
Searching with Scopus (8:37)

Advanced search:
Scopus Tutorial: How to use advanced search (3:07)

Tracking citations:
Scopus Tutorial: How to expand your search (2:50)

Exporting to other programs, download, bibliography:
Scopus Tutorial: How to download and export your search results

Full playlist of Scopus tutorials:
Training videos

WEB OF SCIENCE

  • covers the years: 1975 onwards in UEF
  • covers the document types: mainly articles, but also books and conference papers
  • uses thesauruses: none; only author keywords and automatically generated keywords are available

Open the database in a new tab in UEF-Primo: Web of Science.

The Web of Science database contains three discipline-specific collections: Arts & Humanities, Social science and Science citation indexes. The Science citation index also covers health sciences. They can be used together, as a Core collection, or separately. Read more about Web of Science’s contents and indexing policy from Table 1 in the article by C.Birkle et al. (2020) (link opens in a new tab).

Web of Science’s strength is the concentration in the most cited publications only.

Web of Science’s weakness is the somewhat lightweight coverage of other than Anglo-American science.

Boolean operatorsProximity operatorTruncation * WildcardsPhraseStemming and spellingSearch fields to start with
as usualNEAR/n
(no specific order)

NEAR without a number is same as NEAR/15
middle and end,
beginning only in Title and Topic fields
? replaces one character

$
replaces one or zero characters
as usualalso inflection of verbs is includedTopic
(= title, keywords, abstract)
Search technical specialties in Web of Science

Search query example

The topic of this query is the health effects of a (certain) concentration of mold in indoor air. The query is: (mold* OR mould* OR mildew*) AND indoor AND (concentration OR level) AND (health NEAR/2 (effect OR impact)).
Click the orange buttons for more information about the selected search terms. See accessible version of the picture, the link opens into a new tab.

Video tutorials (links open in new tabs):

Search technique:
Build better searches in Web of Science (5.12)

Basic search techniques (featuring the old user interface):
Web of Science search tips (5:37)

Advanced search interface and alerts:
Using the advanced search query builder (1:43)

Author search:
Author searching (4:44)

Social sciences, Analysing results, Cited reference search:
Social sciences in Web of Science (3:17)

Arts and humanities:
Arts & Humanities in Web of Science (2:46)

All official tutorial videos:
Web of Science training

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.

References:

Baas, J. et al. (2020). Scopus as a curated, high-quality bibliometric data source for academic research in quantitative science studies.
Quantitative Science Studies, 1 (1): 377–386. https://doi.org/10.1162/qss_a_00019.

Birkle, C., Pendlebury, D. A.,Schnell, J., & Adams, J. (2020). Web of Science as a data source for research on scientific and scholarly activity. Quantitative Science Studies, 1(1),363–376. https://doi.org/10.1162/qss_a_00018

Martín-Martín, A. et al. (2018). Google Scholar, Web of Science, and Scopus: a systematic comparison of citations in 252 subject categories. Journal of Informetrics, 12(4), 1160-1177.
https://doi.org/10.1016/J.JOI.2018.09.002

Singh, V.K., Singh, P., Karmakar, M. et al. (2021). The journal coverage of Web of Science, Scopus and Dimensions: A comparative analysis. Scientometrics 126, 5113–5142. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-021-03948-5