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Databases vs Internet Search Engines: Overview

What is a library database? How is it different from using Google?

Library Databases

What is Database? 

A library database is a search tool for high-quality content from published sources – magazines, scholarly journals, newspapers, ebooks. Examples of databases are Academic Search Complete and PsycArticles.  

Why Use a Database? 

  • Reliable information – Information in published books and articles has been verfied and is supported by facts. The Internet can skip this important step. For some journals, articles are peer-reviewed, which means checked by a group of experts to make sure they meet the necessary standards. 
  • Value – The college pays for access to the content in the databases. As a Waubonsee student, you have free access to a lot of valuable sources through the library databases.
  • Efficient – The databases have search features that help you get a relevant and useful list of results, such as subject term searching, limiting by date or by type of source. In contrast, internet search results can be overwhelming and contain many inappropriate or irrelevant sources.  

For more information about using the databases, see the How to Find Articles guide. You can see the entire list of library databases on the Library website. 

Search Engines

What is a Search Engine? 

Google and Bing are internet search engines. They search the internet for websites that match your search terms.

Why Use a Search Engine?  

  • An internet search engine can find information from organizations or governments and some free articles from news companies. Examples of good sources include government statistics, informative reports from organizations, and news articles from CNN or CNBC.  
  • However, to use information from the internet in your research, you will need to evaluate the credibility and qualifications of the source.  

To learn more about evaluating websites for use in your research, see the Website Evaluation guide. 

Should I use a Library Database or the Internet?

It depends. If your assignment calls for “scholarly” sources, you will want to use books and articles from the Library databases. If you are looking for census data or very current news, the internet would be useful.  

What about Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia where individuals can contribute and edit the entries. Because it is not a traditionally published source, Wikipedia articles are not automatically reliable or high-quality. It can be useful as a starting point - to get an overview of a topic  - and, you can check the bibliography in a Wikipedia article to find actual sources that you can use.

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