Skip to Main Content

Health and Social Care

Library subject guide for nursing, midwifery, AHPs, health and social care

Finding Research Based Evidence from Journals

Journals are academic publications on a specific topic e.g. Diabetes Nursing, Practising Midwife, or Journal of Intellectual Disabilities. Issues appear regularly e.g. weekly, monthly, or quarterly. They are high-quality sources of up to date information.

Each issue will contain a number of articles or papers on very specific topics within that one subject. There are different types of journal articles (reviews, research, commentary/opinions, book reviews etc.).

A lot of journal articles are peer-reviewed, which means they are evaluated and critiqued by researchers and experts in the field before being published.  The research or evidence from these peer reviewed journals allows us to change or improve the care we give to patients and clients as part of evidence-based practice.

Background facts and history about a clinical condition or care procedures can be gleaned from textbooks. However, current clinical practices relating to these topics should be located from more up to date, evidence-based sources, such as journal articles, clinical guidelines, best practice statements, and systematic reviews. Generally you should try to use research that has been published within the last five years, but this will often depend on the topic under investigation and the amount of research evidence currently available within that subject.

Databases are collections of subject specific resources. In a university/library context these are mainly academic resources such as journals, book chapters, conference proceedings, theses etc. 

You can see lists of the key databases for the School of Health and Social Care in the Useful Resources box. These databases contain a mix of journal articles, e-book collections, images and videos, and other specialised sources.

The most effective way of searching for academic journal articles is to use the subject based journal databases as you can search multiple journals at one time. Health journal literature is vast and these databases have extremely effective search engines allowing us to focus down quickly to the information we need.

They work like Google - you enter appropriate keywords and search terms. However, they have much more advanced search facilities allowing you to combine keywords together to find exactly what you want and narrow down the number of results.

Some journals are not indexed in any databases and therefore need to be accessed directly on the publisher website instead. You can use the Journal Search feature in LibrarySearch to find a specific journal and search directly within that journal.

Google Scholar is the academic section of Google. It indexes scholarly material on the internet, including books and journals, however some of the material it indexes is not of good academic quality so you need to carefully evaluate the material you find on there.

Link your Google Scholar results to the full text ejournals we purchase here at Edinburgh Napier. Our Google Scholar guide will show you how.


When searching in databases most of the time you want to use the advanced search feature to build a search that will find a more relevant set of search results. To do this you need to be able to plan effective search strategies, using appropriate keyword search terms, and inputting these into the database in the most effective combination.

The first step is to identify the keywords for your topic or question, and then identify any suitable alternative search terms. If you only use the terms from the original question or topic brief then you will miss out a lot of relevant articles. The keyword search strategy document below provides you with a template you can use to get you started. Remember some searches will have more keyword terms than others.

The video below demonstrates how to input a planned search strategy into a database. Different database platforms will look slightly different, but the principles for doing an advanced search are the same across them all.

Useful Resources

The links below are to journal publisher platforms where we have access to some of our journal subscriptions. As well as searching in databases it also a good idea to check here as we sometimes subscribe to journals directly as not all journals are indexed in databases.

We do not have access to all the content on these platforms, just select titles, so you will not get full-text access to everything. 

Social Work 

Part of the NHS Scotland Knowledge Network specifically targeted at social services and social workers.

This is a free database produced by the Social Care Institute for Excellence. One of its advantages is that is UK focused. A lot of the material in here will be abstract only, meaning you will need to look the source up in LibrarySearch to see if we have full-text access to it. Register for a free account to take advantage of the full search function.

Occupational Therapy

OTseeker is a database that contains abstracts of systematic reviews, randomised controlled trials and other resources relevant to occupational therapy interventions. 

You will also find some OT content in SportDiscus and PEDro below.



PEDro is a free database of over 52,000 trials, reviews and guidelines evaluating physiotherapy interventions. 

As well as these databases I would also recommend looking at the list of Social Work resources on the AHP tab for other social sciences and criminology databases.

There are a wide range of free resources available on the web to find images related to health, medicine and public health. Links to some useful resources are given below.