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Techniques of Research : Database vs Search Engines

A guide for Graduate Student writing and research.

Database or Search Engine

Know the difference between search engines and databases
Because the web is used as a vehicle for delivering information and conducting business for virtually every aspect of our lives, it's easy to forget that it is simply a communication tool and not a guarantee of accuracy or quality for anything tramsmitted. 
Search engines work well for locating contextual information such as specific companies, associations, people and easily recognizable topics. Some things to keep in mind when working with search engines:
  • It is very difficult to 'fail' when using a search engine, meaning that you will usually get some sort of result, which can create a false sense of security about actual searching abilities.
  • Search engines do not put the entire content of the web at your fingertips; only what each company's tools have collected.
  • Quality of results varies greatly and can include paid or sponsored links which aren't easy to distinguish from other search results.
  • Just because information turns up in a search result does not mean that it is reputable, current or published by an authority in the field.
  • Become an information consumer and comparison shop. Consider what you are getting for the "price".
Become familiar with different search engines
Databases make it possible to search concepts and provide access to reputable and scholarly materials
  •  Instead of simply retrieving documents that match a particular term or phrase somewhere in the document (no matter how vague the reference), databases classify items by subject. Together with customization options and the ability to search multiple concepts this approach provides for reliable, focused and scholarly search results.
  • Databases are paid for by the library and contain information that has been reviewed by scholars in the field.
  • In terms of information shopping these are the premium, quality goods, packaged for you by the library. Some of the databases here at Malone are EBSCOHost, Opposing Viewpoints in Context; Literature Criticism Online plus many more.