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CSC124 Information, Technology, and Society: What is a Library Database?

This guide will define information, explain the differences between Google and databases or other library resources, how to locate reliable resources, and how to cite these resources.

What is a Database?

While searching a "library database" might sound intimidating, don't feel anxious.  A library database often refers to an online collection of scholarly articles, case studies, periodicals, analyses of companies and businesses, and so much more!  The library has access to many resources so that you can find what you need to complete your projects. 

 Another important fact is that you have access to these resources for free.  The library pays for these resources, so that you can have get the information that you need.  Information comes in various formats--images, full text articles, eBooks, maps, and building plans.  You can find many resources to fit your projects.

Google Versus Library Databases

google versus research database graphMost (if not all) of you have used Google to search for information in the past.  You probably think, "Google retrieves thousands of websites in a few seconds--how can that be a bad thing?"  While Google appears to bring millions of websites to your fingertips in a few seconds, for college level research, library databases are the resources to use.  

Library databases are better than Google in a number of ways:

  • The articles in databases are free for you to use--the library pays for the resources.
  • The certain articles on databases are peer reviewed by panels of experts in the field so the information is accurate and detailed.
  • Databases have numerous limiters that allow users to narrow down their search terms to only retrieve useful results.
  • Full text versions of articles are available, either in the database or through interlibrary loan.
  • If you find an article on a topic you need, databases provide citations to other articles on similar topics so you can find more resources.

The Online Catalog

The library catalog is a great tool that searches across many databases and collections.  Just like for databases, in the catalog you can limit your search in order to get the right information for your projects.  The catalog will find books (print or eBooks), articles, periodicals, films, and images.