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How To Use the Science Direct Database: Home

How To Use Science Direct

Provided by a vendor named Elsevier, Science Direct is, as its name suggests, our best database for researching scientific topics. However, it's also great for social science (education, psychology) and business topics.

All journal articles in Science Direct are scholarly. The books in Science Direct are also scholarly. However, reference works and images cannot be considered scholarly.


  1. Go to library's home page at
  2. Click Article Databases
  3. Scroll down the alphabetical list and click on Science Direct.
  4. Enter your Empire login and password.
  5. That will take you to the Science Direct main page, from which you can either search for your keywords or browse by topic.

Basic Search

When you first log into Science Direct:

  1. You will see the Basic Search boxes at the top of the screen. Type your search into the box and click the Search button.

    Search Tips:

    • Put quotation marks around any search phrase or exact combination of keywords (e.g.; "United States of America" or "social psychology").
    • Use AND between two keywords or phrases to search for articles containing both terms. (e.g.; Sumatra and tsunami).
    • Use OR between keywords to search for articles containing either term (e.g.; teaching or pedagogy).
    • For more information about keyword searching with Boolean Operators, see Using AND, OR & NOT to Combine Keywords.
  2. You can also Browse Publications By Subject area using the expandable list right below the search box, on the left side. 
  3. If you know the title of the journal you want (not the article!) you can use the Browse Publications By Title menu, which is below the search boxes, on the right.

Advanced Search

To get to the advanced search screen, click the Advanced Search link, which is in small print, way over to the right of the Basic Search boxes. 

  1. First decide whether you want to search All Sources, Journals, Books, Reference Works or Images, using the tabs up at the top of the search box. Unless you specifically want books, Reference Works, or Images, choose the Journals tab.
  2. Each of the two search boxes has a pull-down menu to the right of it. Some useful fields to search are:
    • All Fields - this is the same as a keyword search in Basic Search
    • Authors - the author(s) of the article
    • Source Title - the title of the journal that the article is in
    • Title - the title of the article
    • Keywords - Science Direct is confusing because they use "Keywords" to mean "Descriptors" or "Subject Headings." These are the official keywords in the article's description. For more information about that, see Controlled Vocabulary.
    • Full Text - words found in the text of the article
  3. A pull-down menus between the two search boxes lets you join the search boxes with AND, OR or NOT.
    • You can still use AND, OR, NOT, quotation marks and parentheses inside the search boxes the same way you would in Basic Search.
    • By default, Science Direct puts an AND in between the search boxes. You can use the pull-down menus to to change it.
    • Boolean-savvy users: Science Direct treats each search box like a giant set of parentheses. 
  4. You can select a particular subject area that you want to search in. This is particularly useful if you are using keywords that are used differently in different subjects, like nuclear (nuclear power, nuclear DNA, nuclear family...)  
  5. You can limit your search to articles that were published within a certain date range

Search Results List

  1. Your search results page will display 25 search results per page, by default. If there is more than one page of search results, you will see page numbers at the top and bottom right so you can look at all of them.
    • Search results are displayed in order from most relevant to least relevant.
  2. The title of the article is a link to the Article Information page.
  3. Beneath each search result the PDF icon (if the full-text is available) and Related Articles (more on this in Refining Your Search.) 
  4. On the left side of the search results page is the Search Within Results menu. Use it to narrow your search (more on this in Refining Your Search.)
  5. Below that, on the left side of the search results page is the Refine Results menu (more on this in Refining Your Search.) 

Article Information

Click on the title of the article to get to the Article Information page, where you will find:

  1. Authors, journal name, volume, issue, page numbers, publication date, and the DOI
    • The DOI is a unique identifier and permalink for the article, and is needed to cite the article. You can also use it to get back to the article later.
  2. Abstract, which is a summary of the article's content. Read this before you spend too much time trying to locate or read the full-text! Also HTML full-text (scroll down to find it!)
  3. An outline that you can use to click through the HTML full-text.
  4. Download PDF and Export citation.
    1. If you want to print the article, you should first download the PDF, open it in your PDF reader, and print it from there. (You will need to have software to open PDF files, such as Adobe Reader.)
  5. Related Articles - a great way to find articles on the same topic!

Finding Full-text

Science Direct almost always has the full-text. The exceptions are articles that are still in pre-publication status. Because they are not published yet, they will not be available through Google Scholar or any of the other library databases either. 

Articles are available in HTML full-text. You can find them by scrolling down below the Abstract in the Article Information page, and you can also navigate from section to section and from image to image using the Outline on the left side of that page. 

Articles are also available as downloadable PDF files. PDFs are formatted exactly the same as the paper version. If you want to print an article, you should download the PDF first, and then print. (You will need to have software to open PDF files, such as Adobe Reader.)

Science Direct lets you download (save) the PDF full-text from two locations. One is right under the article in the search results list. See below.

The other is at the top of the Article Information page. See below.

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