Background: Electronic bibliographic databases are important tools when searching for medical information. The selected databases have an important effect on the potential results achieved. Studies about comparison of databases provide useful information to help determine which databases or set of databases are useful for a particular topic.
Aims: The aim of this study is to examine the coverage and overlap of three commonly used databases in mental health research.
Methods: We performed systematic database searches on four topics (ADHD prevalence, schizotypal personality, brain MRI studies in schizophrenia, recovery in schizophrenia) in three databases (PubMed, Web of Science and PsycINFO). We also studied the effect of publication year and language on database coverage.
Results: PubMed was the most comprehensive database in ADHD (85% coverage of total results of the three databases) and MRI studies (71%), whereas PsycINFO was most effective in recovery (62%) and schizotypal personality (72%). The most comprehensive combination of two databases found 77-94% of the articles on the different topics. Publication year and language affected the coverage in some cases.
Conclusions: When choosing databases, the extent of coverage and topic should be taken into account, as there is no single database that covers all information needs. In the case of interdisciplinary topics, the Web of Science or PsycINFO should be considered; PsycINFO should be included especially on topics related to psychology. The use of several relevant bibliographic databases, including others than those used here, is recommended.