A database is a searchable collection of records linking to published information. While many search tools are technically databases, here we are referring to those produced by external parties and subscribed to by the Library.

Choose the right database

Databases are collections of item records - sometimes on a particular subject, sometimes covering multiple subjects. QUT Library subscribes to hundreds of databases. The library databases pages will help you to identify relevant databases for your discipline, or you can search for a database by resource type.

A typical database record

The most common databases are specific to a subject area or discipline and contain and refer to newspaper or journal articles. These databases provide basic bibliographic information including:

  • article author
  • article title
  • journal title
  • publication year
  • the volume, issue and page numbers.

In addition, some databases will provide:

  • subject headings
  • an abstract or summary
  • full-text
  • the DOI.

Watch the video below to understand a typical database record.


Full-text means that you will be able to view the entire article in that database. Full-text access can come in various formats - the two main formats are:

  • HTML: Loads quickly, but graphics do not display well. No page numbering is included.
  • PDF: Can be slow to load, but includes pages number for citing, graphics appear as per the original, and is formatted for printing. Look for the PDF icon: PDF icon

If no options for full-text are available for an article, you can search for the article in other QUT subscribed databases. Look for the QUT Fulltext Finder or LibKey pop-up. Check for the Fulltext@QUT link.

Quick tip: Did you know you can set up Google Scholar or the LibKey Nomad browser extension to find full-text without searching through the Library? Setting up Library Links in Google Scholar lets you see when Google Scholar results are available through QUT, while installing the LibKey Nomad browser extension will provide access to the full-text of an article when you are browsing the web.

Tips for searching databases

Tip #1 Understand the database you're using

Consider these questions:

  • What kind of information does it contain?
  • How large is it?
  • Who produces it?
  • What syntax and search operators does it use?

This information can be found in the database description and the Help features within the database.

Tip #2 Use subject headings, controlled vocabularies or thesauri

A database usually contains a specific controlled vocabulary or set of subject headings. These are often more precise than those in general search tools and can make your search more targeted and relevant. You can also search within these subject headings to ensure you are using the best keyword for a topic, or to discover new search terms.


In the CINAHL database, use CINAHL Subject Headings to search for your keyword 'Heart attack'. This will provide you with the preferred terminology (myocardial infarction) as well as a list of broader and narrower terms to enhance your search.

Tip #3 Look for the filters

There are many ways to refine your results in databases. Common options include filtering to:

  • a date range
  • peer reviewed
  • full-text
  • subject
  • publication.

Subject specific databases may give you further filters depending on the discipline (e.g. filter by age group in Health or Education databases). Look for "search options", "refine search" or "search limits" to discover what's available. See more about filters at 3.1.1 Review and revise your search.