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Training ISS premaster Academic Skills: Search systems


View various search systems and choose at least two that may be relevant to your search query. Use the information on this page if you need help.
Make a note of which search systems you want to use.
For more insight into the differences between the various search systems you can also do the following assignment:

Search for the word homelessness in the following search systems:

  • Google
  • Google Scholar met UBUlink
  • Scopus
  • Sociological Abstracts
  • Women's Studies International;

Check your results and argue how and why they differ per search system.

Choosing a search system

What you are looking for also determines where you will be looking.

1. If you are searching by subject, use the search systems and databases offered by the library. There are general search systems for all disciplines, but there are also subject-specific databases. Choose the search system that best fits your subject. And do not limit yourself to just one search system, they are all different and therefore give different results. See also the box below for examples of databases in the Social Sciences. Students and employees of the Utrecht University have access to all of these scholarly with their Solis-id. In the case of digital publications the UBUlink provides direct access. 

2. If you already know a title or author name for a book or article it is easiest to look in Google Scholar (with UBUlink) or in Utrecht University Library at WorldCat.

3. Are you looking for material from the Utrecht University Library collection, than you can find books (print and online) and (almost all) online journals  and their articles in Utrecht University Library at WorldCat. Another option to find our collection of e-journals is to use the digital e-journals list (print journals must be searched in WorldCat).

Relevant search systems in the social sciences: some examples

Via the Utrecht University Library homepage you can directly go to Search Engines, or you can use the button Searching for literature. Here you can find an overview of  the scientific search systems the library offers you. There is a complete alphabetical list for all disciplines and there are lists of databases per faculty and subject area. At the bottom of this overview of lists per discipline you can find the list for social sciences.

Useful search systems for ISS can be:

  • Scopus  (All disciplines, citation database)
  • Web of Science(All disciplines, citation database). (social sciences, You can limit your search to the SSCI (Social Science Citation Index) by clicking on<More settings> in WoS and remove the check marks for the other indexes)
  • Google Scholar (with UBU-link) (All disciplines, over 50 million publications)

Below a selection of more subject specific databases that can be of interest:

Always look beyond the most obvious databases and do not limit yourself to just one search system.

When choosing a system it is good to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of general search engines such as Google and Google Scholar. The advantage is that you can quickly find a huge amount of results, but the disadvantage is that these results also include a lot of non-usable and irrelevant sources. It is not always possible to formulate your search query precisely and you have a greater chance that your results will not be scientifically justified.

NB In the special LibGuide Search strategyUBU LibGuide zoektermen bedenken you can find more information on search systems, the quality of search systems and when to use them.


For our search question:

I am looking for information on treatment of eating disorders for boys and men, in publications starting from the year 2000.

the search system for psychology and behavioral sciences PsycInfo is a good choice. Next to this you can search in for example PubMed (medical database) of an interdisciplinary search system such as Scopus or the Web of Science.

Open Access search engines

Open AccessOpen Access articles are freely available. Below you will find a list of search engines containing only or mainly Open Access material

If you want to find out what journals are Open Access you can check the Directory of Open Access Journals
And use the Lean Library extension, it will tell you if an open access version of the article is available.