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last updated: 9/4/2012

Georef & GeoScienceWorld

An Introduction to Two Major Geological Databases

Exploring the Geoscience Literature      This site provides a quick quide to some of the basic features and helpful services that are part of the two major databases in the geosciences world. A pdf version of the information found on this site can be downloaded (for easy printing) here.

GSW versus GeoRef: Which do I choose?

GeoScienceWorld (GSW) provides an excellent starting point into the general geoscience literature as it covers the core journals in geology and earth sciences. It is most suitable for undergraduate papers and introductory literature reviews. Another benefit of GSW is that all of the articles indexed are available in full-text for IU-affiliates.

GeoRef, on the other hand, has much broader coverage. It covers many sub-discipline specific journals in addition to the major ones covered in GSW. It also indexes books, government publications, maps and conference proceedings. However, unlike GSW, items listed in GeoRef are not always available electronically in full-text.

GSW banner

Background: Nonprofit corporation formed in 2004 by leading earth science organizations “for the purpose of making geoscience research and related information easily and economically available via the Internet”

  • Standard author, title, keyword, date search
  • Plus searching by author affiliation, mtg. information, thesaurus term
  • Restrict journals searched to GSW+GeoRef, just GSW, or ones you select
  • Geographic search if you know bounding coordinates
  • Figure/Table Caption search
  • Wildcard * -- use for truncation (i.e. searching glaci* returns results for glaciers, glaciations & glacial)
  • TopicMap—graphical viewer for subjects, time & location
  • GSW journals list
  • GeoRef thesaurus terms
  • Download citations for import to citation manager software
  • Alerts for new materials that meet a saved search query
  • CiteTrack alerts for when an article is cited, updated or corrected

GeoRef Banner

Background:      The GeoRef database, established by the American Geological Institute in 1966, provides access to the geoscience literature of the world. GeoRef is the most comprehensive database in the geosciences and continues to grow by more than 100,000 references a year. The database contains over 3.1 million references to geoscience journal articles, books, maps, conference papers, reports and theses. It contains information on publications related to the geology of North America from 1693 to the present and the geology of the rest of the world from 1933 to the present.

  • Citations to all of the publications indexed in the Bibliography and Index of North American Geology, Abstracts of North American Geology, Bibliography of Theses in Geology, Geophysical Abstracts, Bibliography and Index of Geology Exclusive of North America, and the Bibliography and Index of Geology.
  • References to all U.S. Geological Survey and state geological survey publications, as well as geological survey publications from other countries of the World.
  • Citations to masters' theses and doctoral dissertations from US and Canadian universities.
  • Standard author, title, keyword, date search
  • Search within specific subject categories (Geochemistry, Structural Geology, etc.). A list of these categories with in-depth descriptions can be found at
  • Author & Journal Name Indexes – useful if you want to find all works by a specific author or in a specific journal
  • GeoRef Thesaurus – particularly useful for seeing relationship between locations and formations; also for finding the specific terminology used; can see broader/narrower/related terms
  • Alerts for new materials that meet a saved search query (can be accessed from Search History page)

last updated: 9/4/2012