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Library Services



LibrarySkills@UCL for NHS staff

A guide to information literacy and library skills for NHS staff from Trusts supported by UCL Library Services, to inform clinical practice, study and research.

Bibliographic databases

Bibliographic databases, or indexing and abstracting databases, contain details of articles published in journals and may also contain other types of information, such as conference proceedings or book chapters. 

You should use bibliographic databases to search for literature:

  • when you cannot find evidence that answers your clinical or research question in sources of high level evidence, such as clinical guidelines, synopses of evidence or systematic reviews (see the Evidence-Based resources page of this guide);
  • when you wish to find the latest publications that address your clinical or research question;
  • when you wish to do a comprehensive literature search, such as for a systematic review or research project;
  • when there is a lot of literature on your topic and you wish to make use of the advanced search and refine features available in bibliographic databases, in addition to providing you with high quality, peer-reviewed publications.

Bibliographic databases often have a focus on a particular discipline, such as clinical medicine, nursing, health management or allied health.

For more information about how to construct a search in a bibliographic database, please see the page on