Library Databases Vs. Internet Search Engines (or, how to make Google your last stop for research).

Sure, we’ve all done it – received a research assignment and gone straight to Google to see what’s out there.  That is – we’ve all done it until receiving a less than pleasing grade on that assignment and wondering – where did I go wrong?   The first step is to consider the world of information available to you beyond Google.  Or rather, more importantly, before Google.  That’s right – authoritative, credible, current, chock-full-of-good-research things called Library Databases.  What is the difference between Library Databases and search engines and what kinds of resources does each yield? Read on for the 411… 

Library Databases 

  • Type of Information Retrieved:  Magazine, Journal, Newspaper articles; books or book chapters; conference proceedings or papers; technical publications.
  • Review Process: Information in library databases comes from publishing groups and goes through a review process before it is published in electronic or print materials. This information has been checked for accuracy and reliability by the publisher’s editors.
  • How often is it updated? Regularly!  From daily to quarterly or even annually.
  • Cost/Accessibility:  Library databases are NOT FREE. The library pays a fee for access to databases.
  • Uses:  Library Databases should be the first stop for any academic research assignment, whether you’re searching for background or biographical information, a basic overview or in-depth research coverage. A Reference Librarian can assist you in choosing the right database for your research needs.

Search Engines

  • Types of Information Retrieved: Some free personal and commercial Web pages from around the world – No search engine includes every Web page; very few free journal, magazine & newspaper articles/citations; current news and information; government information; advertisements; pornography; e-mail, chat rooms, newsgroups, listservs.
  • Review Process: Since no one owns or controls the Internet, information found using search engines does not go through a review process. Anyone can publish any opinion or idea on the Internet, regardless of their authority, education or experience in that subject area. Web pages found using search engines should be carefully evaluated for their accuracy and reliability and generally should NOT be a starting point for academic research.  Check out this page for a list of criteria to evaluate the quality of web pages.
  • How often is it updated?  Unknown; may include links to pages that no longer exist (“dead links”)
  • Cost/Accessibility: Most search engines and web pages found through search engines are free. Search engines may also retrieve links to fee-based web sites or databases that do not allow access without a username and password.
  • Uses:  Search Engines are a good place to find entertainment or leisure related information, some current news coverage, directory information (phone numbers, addresses), or basic consumer information.   

So the next time it’s you versus that 10 page research paper, stop by the Briggs Library web page and check out our amazing selection of more than 90 Research Databases. You’ll like yourself much better for the quality of work you produce using these powerful resources – and your instructors will too!

Laura M. Wight, Asst. Professor/Reference Librarian

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One Response to Library Databases Vs. Internet Search Engines (or, how to make Google your last stop for research).

  1. Max says:

    OR you could just go a couple of pages into the search.

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