Using the UWC Library Databases

To use the UWC Library, you need to have a student number. This reinforces the urgency of registering as soon as possible. When studying at postgraduate level, it is not sufficient to use general internet websites, and certainly not Wikipedia for information for your assignments. They are not considered “scholarly” within the academic context.

You have therefore been given, through the UWC Library website, access to a large range of very useful Academic Databases (which in turn contain an enormous amount of academic resources, including journal articles). Academic Databases are like online academic libraries: they contain a wealth of “academically sound” documents. The good news is that most of the public health related articles you will be looking for during your studies (eg. those that you want to access for further reading purposes or for an assignment or for your mini-thesis research) will be available FREE on a UWC database.

Our Faculty Librarian has developed a comprehensive guide to using these resources (ie. the Guide to Electronic Resources) which will be sent to you on a USB flash drive. In the interim, here is a brief instruction which has been expanded on in the guide.

Please be advised that the Library website will automatically detect Off Campus users and will thus prompt for your Novell Username or Password (your Student Number) or Password (date of birth – yyyymmdd) or passport or ID number when required.

Please note Off-Campus Users: Click on any database (A-Z) under on the 'Quick Links' menu and you will be prompted to authenticate yourself when off campus.

Follow the prompts which enable you, as a registered student, to access a huge number of scholarly databases. (See diagram below).

If you want to search for literature on a topic, you can search by clicking on:

  • A-Z Databases to access a number of subscribed databases, OR
  • Databases by Subject that will take you to list of databases arranged by subject (public health is under “School of Public Health”).

The most important steps:

To get to a database (for example, Ebscohost Web) go to “A-Z Databases” or “Databases by Subject” as illustrated below:

For off-campus users when you click on one of the Library’s databases (such as EbscoHost
Web) the page that will pop up is the login one depicted below:

At this point you will see some information guiding you to log in with a Username and a Password. Use the same ones you chose for your UWC gmail address. This prevents the general public from using the databases for which the UWC (and you) pay subscriptions.

Just so you know, in order to get to a particular database (like the one we are using for this example, Ebscohost Web) you need to choose one of the two “Database” tabs (A-L) or (M-Z) which you will see once you have clicked on “A-Z Databases” in the “Quick Links” column. And then click on the appropriate letter (in this case “E”).

There are many different databases, some of which are included in other families of databases. By using one giant database, you can save a lot of time. For Public Health topics you could start off by using these ones:

Science Direct
Wiley Online Library

Below, we explain how to access them:

As mentioned above, once the Database screen is open, click on one of the alphabetical tabs (for example, A-L, for the database called EbscoHost Web), and sign in when required.

Then select the sub-databases which sound promising and relevant to your topic by ticking their boxes. We suggest you choose these ones to start: “Academic Search Complete”, “CINAHL Plus with Full Text”, “Health Source – Nursing/ Academic Edition”, “MEDLINE”, “SocINDEX with Full Text” to start. Click on “Continue” at the bottom left. This means you are searching all these databases simultaneously.

Next do what is called an Advanced Search. Play around with all the options to see what is available on that page, but for a very basic search don’t change anything unless you only want Full Text articles.

Start off by putting in your search words. For example, if you are looking for literature on the topic of low birth weight and the link to malaria in Africa. Type “low birth weight” in the first search box, “Africa” in the next and “malaria” in the third. You may also get the information you want by using the synonyms of words, or combinations of different words that relate to your topic of interest, e.g. birth weight; and birth weight and malaria. Leave Africa out, and you will get references for Asia and elsewhere too. If you click on the “Limit to Full Text” (left hand column) you should get just those in the original listing that are full text articles.

The trick when you are starting out is to try out different key words and see what happens. The Self Learning Zone (in the “Quick Links” column) contains useful tips for searching – as does Module 4 “Searching a database” (in the “INFORMATION LITERACY” section under the tab “SERVICES” in the top bar of the UWC Library website).

If you do not find the article in full text
Even if you do not find your article in full text, the library may well have it in full text. There is an SFX facility, [click on SFX once you have the reference]; this may link you to another database that has the full text available. If not, only the abstract or contents will be available. Take the reference down, or copy it into a Word document, then open the e-Journal Title Search facility from the right column of the Library website.

Now paste the journal title in the Find box and click Search or select the name of the journal from the alphabetical list. If the journal title is available, click on one of the databases that appears in blue to find the full text of the article. You will have to select the year and volume of the journal. Be aware that there are additional full-text articles available through Electronic Journals, which are not contained in the databases. You will find much more information in the Guide to Electronic Resources.

If you experience a problem accessing an article after following these tips and those on the Library website, email our Faculty Librarian, Karen Cook (nee Erasmus) at (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with a heading: Library Search Problem. We’ll try to assist. Explain what you did, and what result you got – this helps speed up the process of you getting what you need.

And lastly, there is a really nice function “Ask a Librarian” (at the bottom right hand side of the Library webpage). You can type in your question there, and as they say “Ask us anything – we’ll get back to you here or by email”! So apart from our Faculty Librarian, Karen Cook being available to assist you can always send off a quick message on line to Karen or one of her colleagues.

We are sure that you will find, after getting over the initial hurdle of learning how to do a search on the appropriate electronic databases, you will find so much interesting information about your area of particular area of expertise and/or interest – that over time it will become a lot easier to navigate the terrain of the UWC Library website.

School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape
Robert Sobukwe Road, Bellville 7535, Republic of South Africa
Tel: +27-21 - 959 2809 | Fax: +27- 21 - 959 2872 | Email: