Research Writing

Popular databases for research/PubMed/Scopus/Web of Science and others

A quick guide to the most popular databases: PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, and others

When looking for information to support an investigation or as references for writings in a scientific area, one can turn to bibliographic databases such as the American PubMed, Web of Science and Google Scholar, or the European Scopus. Popular databases for research

But what areas does each handle and how reliable are they? Is access to each of them free or paid? Do they have limitations?

Let’s look at the answers to these and other questions so that we have a complete picture for the best use of these databases.

The most popular bibliographic reference databases

We can all imagine that written production in our current world is so huge that if there were no selection and classification of it, we would get lost in a world of information. The journals indexed and recognized in bibliographic reference databases such as PubMed , Medline , Web of Science and Scopus have quality guidelines that make the content they endorse reliable for the scientific community.

In general, bibliographic databases are compilations of articles, books, theses, conference proceedings, reports and other information that scientists can use to document themselves on a topic of interest. Medline and PubMed, for example, focus on the medical area, while Scopus, Web of Science and Google Scholar are multidisciplinary. Each provides interesting services and also has advantages and limitations . Popular databases for research

Medline and PubMed

Medline is a bibliographic database made by the United States National Library of Medicine dating back to 1960. It currently provides references to some 26 million articles in the life sciences areas published since 1946.

The free interface of Medline is PubMed ( Public Medline) that has been in operation since 1996 and that to date includes more than 31 million references, including those of Medline and articles from other fields of study such as physics, chemistry and astrophysics. For medical journals it is quite an achievement to be included in PubMed, so there are even links to full articles in pdf format for open access journals. In this regard, it is useful to know that PubMed Central , which has been in operation since 2000, is a Medline archive containing full-text documents from life sciences and biomedical journals that are offered free of charge. Popular databases for research


Scopus has been one of the world’s leading databases since 2004. It is a paid database that covers a wide variety of areas such as science, social science, and the arts and offers the following resources:

  • Search: Contains more than 23,452 journals (5500 open access) and articles dating from the year 1788. It also contains records of more than 210,000 books, 9.8 million conference articles from about 120,000 events around the world and about 4 million patent registrations.
  • Discovery: Offers document searches by author and keywords as well as comparison tools for researchers, libraries and project managers.
  • Analysis: Provides authors with citations tracking with the option to remove self-citations and display the most cited article. It provides tools for statistical analysis of its publications and information on the h-index of some researchers.

Web of Science

Web of Science is one of the most popular bibliographic databases. It dates from 1955 and since 2016 belongs to the Clarivate Analytics company. Web of Science is a paid database that covers various scientific, social, arts and humanities areas with some publications dating back to the early 20th century. It offers the following types of search: Popular databases for research

  • Science citations: Contains more than 9200 high-impact journals with articles from 178 scientific disciplines.
  • Social Science Citations: Includes about 3,400 high-impact journals with articles from 58 disciplines in social science.
  • Citations in Arts and Humanities: Contains 1800 high-impact journal with articles from 28 disciplines in these fields of study.
  • And also quotes from new sources, from books with more than 53 million references since 2005, and from congresses and scientific meetings.

It also offers other services such as the publication of journal impact factors and the creation of a researcher profile with citation statistics for their articles.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a search engine offered by Google as a simple option to search for articles in any field of study. Google Scholar provides article and book data, as well as citation information. Likewise, in some cases, it is possible to obtain previews of the publications or even pdf links if the journals are freely accessible. Popular databases for research

The enormous advantage of Google Scholar is that it covers practically all the academic information available such as published articles and books, preprints, abstracts and conference articles from all types of universities and academic institutions, giving a broad and fast overview of the scientific literature. in the area of ​​interest or for a particular author or research group. However, this advantage is also its disadvantage since the articles do not always have the same reliability or are of similar quality.

What is the best base?

As we have seen, the most popular bibliographic databases have advantages but also limitations. A comparison between Scopus and Web of Science reveals that Web of Science has older articles but Scopus is updated more frequently. In terms of academic searches , Web of Science is a better reference for researchers in science areas, while Scopus presents better results for academics in the social sciences and humanities. If the comparison is made with Google ScholarThis database has two advantages over the previous ones, since it is free and handles different languages. However, a great disadvantage of Google Scholar is that it includes all types of publications so not necessarily all have been reviewed. In addition to the databases reviewed here, there are other options such as Portico which is an initiative to preserve written information (91 million articles and 1.4 million books) and is supported by various libraries and publishers. And as an alternative to Medline and PubMed is Embase, which is geared more towards pharmacology. Popular databases for research

Depending on your area of ​​work and your preferences, you will surely have more valuable opinions on this matter. Please share your opinions with us, which will undoubtedly be useful to other researchers.

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