A Review of ScienceDirect
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1 Comment on A Review of ScienceDirect 4087

Alissa V. Fial, MA, MLIS 
Associate Librarian, Research & Instruction Services 
Raynor Memorial Libraries 
Marquette University 

ScienceDirect, which is available through Elsevier, launched in 1997. It is an extensive bibliographic database covering broad areas of science, medicine, and humanities. Publications include research articles, book chapters, encyclopedias, conference information, correspondence, patents, software, and videos. There are over 18 million articles and chapters, over 2,500 peer-reviewed journals, and over 42,000 e-books [1].  

Product Overview 

The platform’s content is divided into four main areas: physical sciences and engineering; life sciences; health sciences; and social sciences and humanities. Within the considerable content areas, there are 24 subcategories. Some of these include chemical engineering, materials science, mathematics, biochemistry, environmental science, medicine, pharmacology, veterinary science and medicine, arts and humanities, business, economics, and social sciences. A complete list of categories is available through ScienceDirect [1]. 

ScienceDirect is intended for a vast audience of students, scholars, librarians, and educators. They serve academic institutions, government agencies, and industry. ScienceDirect pulls its material from Elsevier products. As of May 2021, these include 4,412 journals and 31,230 books [2]. Textbooks are a recent addition, and open access content is available. A complete listing of content is available and searchable by journals, books, and collections [3]. 


ScienceDirect allows for basic and advanced searching of its content. Basic features include keyword searching and citation matching for journal articles or book titles, including volume and page numbers. Advanced features allow for searching abstracts, author-supplied keywords, authors and author affiliation, references, ISSN or ISBN. Users must fill out one search box, but it is unnecessary to fill them all to run the search. All the searching appears via keywords; users will not need to rely on subject headings or be familiar with any of the other major database’s headings to search (e.g., MeSH, Emtree). 

The interface is straightforward with limited options. ScienceDirect follows standard Boolean when searching – AND, OR, NOT – and they need to be written in uppercase. Quotations for phrasing are recommended, and punctuation in phrases is ignored while plural and spelling variants are automatically searched. 

Once a search is run, filters can refine it, including publication date, article type, publication title, subject area, and access type (open access or open archive). Article type may be confusing because it can include book chapters, encyclopedia entries, and several other types of publications (e.g., case reports, editorials, news, discussion, and conference abstracts). 

Users familiar with searching databases will find the expected results appear title/citation and authors. Results are sorted by either relevance or date. Content can be exported to citation management programs, including Mendeley and RefWorks, with RIS, BibTeX, CSV, or text options. Downloadable PDFs are available, and the user is sent to an additional window.  

These may link to similar articles via their recommended articles list, citing articles and the article metrics. These metrics include citations, captures, and social media, with more details available via PlumX. Elsevier has its PDF reader available via Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, and these features allow users to link to the references and previews of the abstracts. 

Other features available include Author Pages and Topic Pages. These cannot necessarily be searched on their own. When the article is opened in a new window, the affiliated authors’ names are hyperlinked. Clicking on any of the authors will link to an author page available via another Elsevier product, Scopus. The author profile links to a profile generated by Scopus. Users will need to access Scopus to view more than the first 10 documents and suggest edits via the feedback wizard [4]. Another feature available is the Topics option. Users may search via the topics page two ways: via the topics index page or reading articles.  

Topics will be hyperlinked in the text of an article. When the user clicks on the link, they are directed to the topics page. The topic pages include an overview, hyperlinks of related terms, and associated book chapters available to view or purchase. The entire topic page can be downloaded as a pdf. 

Like other databases, users can create an account and have continued access remotely via desktop/laptop or mobile/tablet. Searches can be saved with alerts and updates shared with the user, including journal table of contents. Also, ScienceDirect strives to connect users to related content whenever possible. Based upon your recent searches, ScienceDirect will send you recommended articles and publications. While logged in, you will also have a reading history, which displays articles or book chapters viewed. 

ScienceDirect notes it “aspires” to meet the guidelines set up for web accessibility content [5]. As of December 2020, it supports or partially supports most of the criteria established via W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. It supports almost all the requirements established under the US Section 508 Standards (Federal Rehabilitation Act); the exceptions being without hearing, videos do not have closed captioning and partial support for without vision (the enhanced reader does not work with screen readers, and some videos do not have descriptions [6]).  

The strength of ScienceDirect is the interconnectivity of the content. Its many features work together via author pages, topic pages, and recommended content to direct individuals. While searching, it may be helpful to see other content by the author or explore related material across the four major areas. For example, an individual may expect to find research in medicine and dentistry, and these features may direct them to research in engineering. 

Business Model 

Elsevier licenses ScienceDirect to academic institutions and organizations via an annual subscription. The costs may vary, and there are purchasing options available. Authentication and access are set up via IP address with remote access options available via federated authentication (e.g., Shibboleth, OpenAthens), VPN, proxy server, secure login via a library website, and registration via Elsevier. Individuals may use ScienceDirect and purchase articles or book chapters directly. 

ScienceDirect provides an Admin Tool, allowing librarians to gather data and set up an account at their institution. One feature of the Admin Tool is the usage statistics. Elsevier offers many options, and the one specific to ScienceDirect is the reports, which are COUNTER compliant, focusing on book and journal usage. There is supplemental usage including total and unique item requests and requests via other platforms [7].  


ScienceDirect offers a depth and breadth of content available via Elsevier. Its extensive coverage across multiple disciplines and its interconnectivity of content (e.g., recommendation, author pages, topic pages) can provide a more profound search experience for its users. Institutions with interest in a database for the content beyond STEM should consider ScienceDirect as a viable option. 


1. ScienceDirect.com | Science, health and medical journals, full text articles and books. Accessed May 11, 2021. https://www.sciencedirect.com/ 

2. Browse journals and books | ScienceDirect.com. Accessed May 11, 2021. https://www.sciencedirect.com/browse/journals-and-books 

3. Are there title lists for the content available on ScienceDirect? – ScienceDirect Support Center. Accessed May 11, 2021. https://service.elsevier.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/13770/c/10547/supporthub/sciencedirect/kw/content+selectors/ 

4. What is a topic page? – ScienceDirect Support Center. Accessed May 11, 2021. https://service.elsevier.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/25793/supporthub/sciencedirect/kw/how+to+find+topics/ 

5. Web Accessibility – ScienceDirect | Support | Elsevier. Accessed May 11, 2021. https://www.elsevier.com/solutions/sciencedirect/librarian-resource-center/web-accessibility 

6. Gies, Ted. VPAT/ACR Voluntary Product Accessibility Template ScienceDirect. Presented at the: December 10, 2020. https://www.elsevier.com/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/253421/VPAT_ScienceDirect_December_2020_WEB.pdf 

7. Guide to ScienceDirect Usage Reports. ScienceDirect.com. Accessed May 11, 2021. https://p.widencdn.net/uzrbqe/COUNTER_report_descriptions_ScienceDirect 

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1 Comment

  1. Jan W. Schoones May 28, 2021 at 12:47 pm

    Several years ago, the expert search function (command driven) was terminated by Elsevier. This also meant the end of searching for complex topics. This decreased the value of SD significantly.

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