Methods for Evaluating Database Coverage




Research methods, database evaluation, database coverage, content analysis


Purposes: In this article, we describe two methods to evaluate database content coverage, illustrating their use with the example of evaluating databases for coverage of medical education literature.

Method names: Though several methods for evaluating database content coverage have been described, the two used herein, referred to as the reference list search method and the journal method, use traditional librarian skills and tools and can be used across a variety of topic areas.

Description: In this paper, we describe two approaches to evaluating database coverage. For each method, we use the example of evaluating databases for their coverage of medical education literature. In the reference list search method, we search for references from comprehensive reviews or bibliographies to determine their presence in databases. In the journal method, we describe the indexing status and coverage of key publications in databases.

Strengths: These methods use established librarian skills and tools and can be applied to a wide variety of topics.

Limitations: The results of each method depend on the quality and comprehensiveness of the original source material: comprehensive reviews and bibliographies for the reference list search method and publication lists for the journal method.


Higgins J, Lasserson T, Chandler J, Tovey D, Thomas J, Flemyng E, et al. Methodological expectations of Cochrane Intervention Reviews (MECIR) [Internet]. London: Cochrane; 2022 Feb [cited 2020 Dec 11]. Report No.: Version February 2022. Available from:

Kugley S, Wade A, Thomas J, Mahood Q, Jørgensen AK, Hammerstrøm K, et al. Searching for studies: a guide to information retrieval for Campbell systematic reviews. Campbell Syst Rev. 2017 Jan;13(1):1–73.

Aromataris E, Munn Z. JBI manual for evidence synthesis. Adelaide, Australia: Joanna Briggs Institute; 2020.

Clark JM, Beller E, Glasziou P, Sanders S. The decisions and processes involved in a systematic search strategy: a hierarchical framework. J Med Libr Assoc [Internet]. 2021 Jul 20 [cited 2023 Jul 12];109(2). Available from:

Ritchie SM, Young LM, Sigman J. Comparison of Selected Bibliographic Database Subject Overlap for Agricultural Information. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship [Internet]. 2018 Jun 15 [cited 2022 Dec 6];(89). Available from:

Tenopir C. Evaluation of database coverage: a comparison of two methodologies. Online Rev. 1982 Jan 1;6(5):423–41.

Butcher R, Sampson M, Couban RJ, Malin JE, Loree S, Brody S. The currency and completeness of specialized databases of COVID-19 publications. J Clin Epidemiol. 2022 Jul;147:52–9.

Gusenbauer M, Haddaway NR. Which academic search systems are suitable for systematic reviews or meta‐analyses? evaluating retrieval qualities of Google Scholar, PubMed, and 26 other resources. Res Synth Methods. 2020 Mar;11(2):181–217.

Bethel A, Rogers M. A checklist to assess database‐hosting platforms for designing and running searches for systematic reviews. Health Inf Libr J. 2014 Mar;31(1):43–53.

Rethlefsen ML, Kirtley S, Waffenschmidt S, Ayala AP, Moher D, Page MJ, et al. PRISMA-S: an extension to the PRISMA Statement for Reporting Literature Searches in Systematic Reviews. Syst Rev. 2021 Jan 26;10(1):39.

Whiting P, Westwood M, Burke M, Sterne J, Glanville J. Systematic reviews of test accuracy should search a range of databases to identify primary studies. J Clin Epidemiol. 2008 Apr;61(4):357–64.

Royle P, Bain L, Waugh N. Systematic reviews of epidemiology in diabetes: finding the evidence. BMC Med Res Methodol. 2005 Jan 8;5:2.

Hartling L, Featherstone R, Nuspl M, Shave K, Dryden DM, Vandermeer B. The contribution of databases to the results of systematic reviews: a cross-sectional study. BMC Med Res Methodol. 2016 Sep 26;16(1):127.

Haig A, Dozier M. BEME Guide No. 3: Systematic searching for evidence in medical education--Part 2: Constructing searches. Med Teach. 2003 Jan;25(5):463–84.

Haig A, Dozier M. BEME Guide No 3: Systematic searching for evidence in medical education--Part 1: Sources of information. Med Teach. 2003 Jan;25(4):352–63.

Elsevier. CiteScore [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2023 Jul 18]. Available from:

Education Resources Information Center (ERIC). ERIC Selection Policy [Internet]. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education; 2022 May [cited 2023 Jul 19]. Available from:

Gusenbauer M. A free online guide to researchers’ best search options. Nature. 2023 Mar 23;615(7953):586–586.

Gusenbauer M. Search where you will find most: comparing the disciplinary coverage of 56 bibliographic databases. Scientometrics. 2022;127(5):2683–745.

Schaefer N, Morgan-Daniel J. Comparison of Databases for Complex Evidence Syntheses on Education for the Health Professions. Med Ref Serv Q. 2023 Jul 3;42(3):240–59.




How to Cite

Brody, S., Brill, R., & Butcher, R. (2023). Methods for Evaluating Database Coverage. Hypothesis: Research Journal for Health Information Professionals, 35(2).



Methods Moment

Similar Articles

1 2 3 4 5 6 > >> 

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.