A Review of Web of Science
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Marie St. Pierre, MLIS, AHIP
Medical Librarian/Informationist
Children’s Hospital Colorado, Clinical and Research Library
Adjoint Librarian, University of Colorado


Web of Science is a research database that is used in academic settings, mainly for searching the literature of healthcare, science, social sciences, and even arts and humanities. It bases indexing to the literature on a core of regional indexes, data/research sets, and journals. Conference proceedings and books (from 2005) are covered. Scholars and students are its intended audience; libraries and individuals can subscribe. Other databases in Web of Science are: SciELO, the Russian Science Citation Index, and the Korean Journal Database.


Web of Science has a basic search function that allows Boolean combination and filtering by years and document types and specialties, as well as an advanced search function. The advanced search allows for Boolean combination, choice of more specialized databases, and filtering by years. Tags, such as author, topic, PMID, DOI, and more, can be used in both the basic and advanced searches.

The author search has an interesting three-part search: first the author, then the domain (for example, arts and humanities), then the organization. This is helpful if looking for a specific author when the university is known. It is unclear how well this works if the author has changed locations.

The results include times cited, which database it is from, and an abstract of the article, which is a very helpful function. If it is a library’s Web of Science, there are linking icons to check the library’s collection. The results are clear and easy to read, with the journal, volume, issue, and page numbers distinguishable. This may seem an unimportant point, but there are other databases in which the citation is not so clearly formatted, and this detracts from the overall ease of use. Lists of results can be organized by date, times cited, usage count, or relevance.

Clicking on a title brings up fuller citation information, such as publisher, journal impact, and more.

Users can search by cited reference, in other words, they can look up articles that cite a particular work. This can be done by author, the work itself, or years.

Once a person has registered for an individual log in, which does not require a personal subscription, searches can be saved, alerts can be set, and references can be added to EndNote.

There are two features that would be helpful additions. First is the ability to see the DOI and PMID from, perhaps, the abstract or the result. The ability to use these as field tags is very different from seeing them in results. Second, the library article linker is essential and works well, but a way to link and then check Google Scholar more easily would be useful, as this can often lead to links to the article outside of a library; for example, the article’s link in Research Gate (if such exists). From the detailed citation, there is a “look up full text” function, which will point to that citation on Scholar. However, this is something that a user has to know, because it is not obvious from the results list.

Business Model

Web of Science is offered by Clarivate Analytics. Institutional subscriptions can be customized to include only the databases that are needed, or all databases. Subscriptions can be institutional, especially for academic libraries, or individual. Again, a user can self-register to customize and create alerts.

Final thoughts

Web of Science is a database that a college or university library should consider, especially for its science and medical/nursing content.

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