Online academic databases are research tools that provide electronic collections of published articles and excerpts from journals, newspapers, magazines, and books.  These sources are essential for professional research at college and graduate levels since they provide accurate and credible information published by experts specializing in certain fields of study.  In addition, unlike information obtained from traditional search engines, research databases are reviewed and updated regularly and provide researchers with detailed citation information.

Although there are hundreds of online research databases that are available for public use, most of them are not free and cannot be obtained without a subscription.  Fortunately, local libraries throughout the country typically subscribe for numerous databases which can be accessed for free either instantly at the library or at some outside location with a library card number.  However, local libraries typically fail to purchase some of the most crucial databases necessary for advanced scientific research due to their high cost.  Some of these advanced research databases can, in most cases, only be obtained through a couple of large research universities throughout the country, while others are offered at many small colleges and state libraries.  Therefore, college students typically, as a result, have much better luck accessing the database of their choice since universities tend to have access to many online sources since they are at high demand by professors and students.  On the contrary, people not affiliated with a college or university that want to do research, such as high school students, are often forced to use only the databases offered by their local libraries, unless they are willing to travel to a large research university in their area that allows outside guests.

Choosing the right research database for a specified research project is often a daunting task since there are so many online resources from which to choose.  In most cases, it is best to ask a librarian in your area or a college professor if you are a student before you proceed with research.  For people interested in starting scientific research, the following online databases are great resources to check out.


Ebscohost consists of a collection of online databases that cover information in nearly every field of study.  The articles that can be found in the Ebscohost library are electronic versions of peer reviewed periodicals, including full-text articles from magazines, journals, and newspapers that already exist in print format.  Some of the databases that can be accessed from Ebscohost include:

Academic Search Complete: contains over 5,500 full-text periodicals from over 4,000 peer-reviewed journals.  The database has access to PDF content from as far back as 1865 and covers a wide range of subjects such as astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, health sciences, humanities, general sciences, law, mathematics, physics, social sciences, and zoology.  In addition, the database offers searchable cited references for nearly 1,000 titles.

Business Source Complete: contains full-text articles for nearly 1,700 journals in all types of business, including marketing, management, accounting, economics, finance, and banking.  The database is widely considered to be among the world’s best sources of business-related peer-reviewed periodicals.

ERIC (Education Resource Information Center): contains indexing and abstracts of education-related journals with research reports since 1966.  It is a great source for finding publications discussing education.

Engineering Village

Engineering Village is an advanced database which typically can only be found at large research universities.  The online resource consists of two large databases: Compendex and Referex.  Compendex is a comprehensive collection of scientific and technical engineering research that covers nearly every branch of engineering.  Compendex is a very powerful search tool for engineers and scientists engaged in research and is widely considered to provide access to the most useful information in the engineering and mathematical fields of science.  Referex is a collection of online engineering handbooks, which can be used as a supplement for Compendex.


Like Engineering Village, ScienceDirect is an advanced research database that is typically only found at large universities.  However, unlike Engineering Village, ScienceDirect has more of an emphasis on journal articles focusing on traditional areas of science.  In fact, the database contains one of the largest online collections of published scientific research in the world and contains nearly 10 million articles from over 2,500 journals.  The database is operated by the publisher Elsevier, which has been extremely successful in obtaining large collections of research from the past while still offering recent, state-of-the-art publications.

HighWire Press

For people looking for access to free online journal articles, HighWire Press is perhaps the best site to check out.  HighWire Press is a division of the Stanford University Libraries that collaborates with publishers to produce a large collection of research literature.  However, although most of the articles are offered to the public for free, there are also some articles that the user must purchase to view the full-text version.  The database as a whole contains scholarly research literature from over 1300 journals and 130 publishers with a total of over 4 million full-text journal articles.

Other Ways to Obtain High-quality Scientific Literature

Apart from using these databases, it is possible to find good, quality scientific literature by using Google.  For people looking for journal articles, Google Scholar offers free access to some great published scientific material.  However, results obtained from using Google Scholar will probably not be as good as the results obtained from HighWire Press or Science Direct.  In addition, Google Scholar is not considered to be as reliable as traditional academic research databases.  For people looking for accurate, credible articles on certain scientific topics, doing an Advanced Google Search can filter out much of the undesirable websites that are lacking in credibility.  After clicking on “advanced search” on the Google Website, go to “file type” and select “Adobe Acrobat PDF.”  Next, continue with your advanced search by typing in the desired phrase into “all of these words.”  Finally, click on advanced search and Google will filter out all websites that do not have a PDF format.  Since most credible research sources are published with a PDF format, there is a much greater likelihood that these results will be better than a typical Google Search.