Database vs Search Engine Research

The 2013-2014 school year is finally underway, and everyone is gearing up for an amazing experience! It will be full of excitement, opportunity, fun, and yes, work..!

Throughout the course of the year, you will be doing quite a bit of research for your classes. Some of it will be casual – you’ll be able to use an internet search engine such as Google, Yahoo!, or Bing, and other assignments will require you to do more academic research with our collection of library databases. Why do your teachers make a big deal of WHERE you get your information? Well, not all information is reliable. When you are conducting research for classes, you need to make sure that you are getting your information from sources that are trustworthy and not full of bias and/or misinformation (Note: We covered this in an earlier post “How to Evaluate Online Resources“).

But what’s the difference between an academic database and an online search engine?


  • Contain newspapers, magazines, scholarly articles, books, and academic publications.
  • All information is reviewed by editors and experts before being published.
  • Access is not free – the library pays to subscribe to them. Why do you think we do that..?
  • Regularly updated to keep information current and reliable.

Search Engine

  • Contain a large collection of webpages, but there is no assurance of quality or reliability.
  • There is no review process for the internet. It is a collection of resources that range from exceptional to exceptionally bad.
  • Much of the content on the web is free, but some require fees or subscriptions.
  • While some websites are updated regularly, many are not – there are many out-of-date resources and “dead end” links.

In short, our collection of databases should be your first stop when starting a new research project.

They will provide you with more reliable and authoritative information to use in your work. That said, there are many reasons to use search engines for more casual, personal research. In a follow-up post, I’ll give you some tips on how to be more effective when using both types of resources.

And, just in case you forgot how to access our collection of databases, here it is again 😉

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