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Databases: Choosing & Using

Learn how to find which library databases are the best for searching on your topic and how to use the databases to your advantage--saving you time and energy!

Choose the right tool for your research needs!

Google, Google Scholar, and library databases each have their pros and cons, depending on the type of information you are looking for.  Use the chart below to help you decide which is best for your particular research needs.

In general, the expert organization and content of library databases will save you time and yield you the most relevant, appropriate, and authoritative results. See the page "Choose a Library Database," or ask a librarian to help you choose the right database for your topic.





Google Scholar

Library Databases


The entire indexed Internet  (excludes parts of the “deep web” hidden behind logins or portals)

·         Commercial sites (.com or .net); educational sites (.edu); governmental sites  (.gov); organizations’ sites (.org); individual sites (.com, .net)

·         Subset of Internet: “academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites.”

·         You do not know what specific sites are being searched; cannot determine how comprehensive

·         All types of free and fee-based (already paid by library) popular, professional/trade and academic/scholarly information sources appropriate to discipline(s) represented

Clearly defined in each database, so you know what sources are indexed and searched and from when (dates included)



·         Searching is free

·         Results contain free and purchasable content

·         Searching is free

·         Results contain free and purchasable content

·         Most full text of articles is NOT free! Use the library’s Journal Holdings link to find the full text of your article, either online, in print, or through Interlibrary Loan (“Delivery from other libraries”).

·         Library pays for database access—these are specialized tools specifically geared toward your research needs!

·         Full text of articles is free TO YOU! The Library pays publishers or vendors for access to full text (information=$$$)

·         Check the Journal Holdings link to see if the library has access to the full text


·         Everything published on the open and indexed Web: web pages, news, blogs, videos, images, music, .pdf, .doc, .ppt, etc.


·         Articles, books, book chapters, conference papers, court opinions


·         Magazine or journal articles (popular, professional/trade and academic/scholarly), newspapers, books, book chapters, essays, conference papers, court opinions, reports, financial information, statistics/data, streaming video, streaming music, and more, depending on the database

·         Need to choose the appropriate database(s) to search

·         Includes reference databases, with specialized encyclopedic information, excellent for background information, facts, definitions, maps, and more.


·         Anyone

·         No verification or review for quality or validity before publishing

·         Journalists, scholars, professionals, other?

·         May have been reviewed by editors or other scholars before being published

·         Journalists, scholars, professionals

·         Reviewed by editors or other scholars before being presented or published


Editorial control: content reviewed by professionals

No; search returned by Google algorithm

No; search returned by Google algorithm


Indexing: organized by information and subject professionals with controlled vocabulary and other limits


·         Limiting done by search algorithm

·         Advanced search allows for some limits: use them!


·         Does not use publisher or library data; Google creates it automatically; there may be errors


·         Limiting done by search algorithm

·         Advanced search allows for some limits: use them!


·         Can limit and filter searches by subject terms and other parameters

·         Results from limiting more consistent and granular

·         Increases relevancy and/or precision

·         Saves time


·         Must evaluate  each source for yourself

·         See Evaluating Websites

More trustworthy; still must verify source (e.g., publisher website vs. university website vs. individual’s website)

·         not all sources “scholarly”

·         not all citations or links accurate

·         Content or publications vetted by editors, scholars, or other professionals

·         Bibliographic information (abstract, citations, subject terms, etc.) developed and maintained by experts

MH&RL, 6/6/2011; last updated 11/28/11