General considations

Indexing is a system that journals use to associate and distribute their content with an online database for public viewing. It improves accessibility for readers, allowing journals to reach a wider audience. Examples of databases are Scopus (, Web of Science (, and PubMed ( These databases allow authors to search the literature based on search terms and criteria, such as Publication Name, Author, Title, and Document Type, to name a few. Most databases will index journal papers as citations, providing all the necessary information to source a paper from the journal or publisher website, such as the journal name and volume and issue number, as well as author and affiliation information. Some databases will also provide the abstract along with the citation, while others will provide the full text for the paper.

Authors can use indexing databases as search engines for discovering journals, as all the necessary journal information is available within one location. Using PubMed, for example, authors can click the link for the journal title to search the contents of that journal within the PubMed database, starting with the most recent volume. This saves users switching between journal websites and maintains a centralised framework for sourcing and citing literature.

Practical example for Life Sciences

Within the life sciences, PubMed, Web of Science, and Scopus are major indexing databases that allow authors to source, collate, and cite ecological literature. Using the search terms and criteria effectively allows authors to easily source journal volume and paper information, usually for the entire backlog of the journal’s history.

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