Information Services

About Library databases

There are many online resources available to help with your research.

About databases

Many databases will provide access to the full text of journal articles or primary source materials.  Find out about the different types of information available, which databases are most suitable for you, and how to get access to resources on and off campus.

Why use Library databases?

The Library uses the term ‘database’ to describe a searchable online resource. Usually, the Library pays for access to copyrighted content within licensed databases, although a small number may be freely available to access.

Using the databases provided by the Library will help you find reliable information from trusted sources.

A database may be dedicated to a single subject or cover several subjects. Some publishers also provide databases which allow you to search all their published content from one website.

You can find a variety of information, including:

  • Full text articles from e-journals and other publications
  • Abstracts
  • Citation information
  • Newspaper articles
  • e-books
  • Primary source material
  • Images and multimedia content
  • Audio-visual content including videos

The Library also provides access to databases which enable you to search major reference works, for example, the Oxford English Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Finding a relevant database

If you know which database you want to search, find it on the A-Z list of databases and gain access from there.

Databases A-Z

Alternatively, to find out which databases are relevant to your subject, use the Database by subject A-Z or refer to your subject guide.

Databases by subject

Subject Guides

You can also use DiscoverEd which enables you to search multiple databases (and ejournals, ejournal articles and the Library's Collections) from a single search box. DiscoverEd can be a good place to start your research.

More information about DiscoverEd

Full text

When full text is available, your access to it will depend on the details of the Library’s subscription.

Once you have found a reference to an article, look out for links to 'Find it @ Edinburgh', 'Full text', 'openurl' or similar. In many cases, these will take you to the full document for viewing or downloading.

Alternatively, check DiscoverEd to find out if we have a subscription to a print version, or ask about requesting items via Interlibrary Loans.

Sometimes you may be asked to pay for access to an article. Always check with the Library before making any payment (particularly if searching off-campus) as you may actually be entitled to FREE access via the Library's subscriptions.

Accessing online resources

The majority of resources can be accessed on and off campus, via your University Login, by following the links from Databases A-Z or Databases by subject.

To access some databases you may be asked to Login via UK Federation. Usually this just involves choosing the Login via UK Federation option, and selecting 'University of Edinburgh' from a drop down list. You will then be directed to the database.

Occasionally, a separate username and password may be required to access a database and, in a few cases, it may be necessary to download specialised software to use a database.

Full access details are given for each resource on the Databases A-Z and Database by subject pages.

To access some resources off campus you may have to connect to the University’s VPN.

Text and Data Mining

Increasingly, publishers are supporting research activity by allowing members of subscribing institutions to carry out Text and Data Mining on their copyrighted, licenced database content.

This access is governed by usage terms and conditions which are already included in the contracts or licence agreements into which the Library has entered with the publisher, and the access will also be governed by existing copyright provisions

  • In some instances, publishers will require you to use specific tools or dedicated TDM platforms which they provide to facilitate the mining of their content, or they may conduct the process for you.  This allows publishers to manage the volume of data being accessed and the impact on their servers. 
  • The publisher may also require you - as an individual - to sign a specific and separate TDM licence, or to use an API.
  • Unauthorised mining can affect the performance of publisher platforms, and this will impact on authorised users across the University who are trying to access and read the content. 
  • Publishers may also levy a fee for the additional usage which sits outside of our existing licence agreement.

Please note that publishers have systems in place which detect downloading of large amounts of data, and this frequently triggers automatic lockouts, preventing legitimate access to resources by authorised users across the University.

The Library is currently reviewing existing database licence agreements to determine those which already include provision for text  mining and analysis by University of Edinburgh authorised users, and a list will be made available on this page in due course


A few databases are only available via CD ROM. CD-ROMs are currently only available to one user at a time, on single user CD-ROM workstations, in specific libraries.

These workstations are usually available whenever the libraries holding them are staffed. Please contact the relevant site library for further details.

Searching for older information

If you’re looking for older information, databases may not always be the best source.

For certain subject areas printed indexing and abstracting journals may still be the best, and only means, of tracing references to literature.

Help using databases

Like websites, databases are all designed differently and it can take time to learn how to use them effectively. Most databases include help pages or FAQs.

However, becoming familiar with a few basic principles, will help you find the information you want whatever database or online resource you are using.

Learn more about the basic principles of searching databases

Additional guides for some databases have been produced by the Library and are available via the Databases A-Z or Databases by subject pages.

Still need help?

If you require any further information, then please:

Related Links

Accessing e-resources