While there are newspapers and other services, like Google Scholar, available free online, the library databases are services to which the MacOdrum Library pays to have access. Most of the articles contained in the library databases cannot be found through a search engine like Google.

What is a library database?

A library database, such as OMNI (the library's main database), Web of Science or JSTOR, is an organized collection of electronic information that allows a user to search for a particular topic, article, or book in a variety of ways (e.g., keyword, subject, author, title). Library databases contain thousands to millions of records or articles. The library purchases subscriptions to these databases using some of the money you pay to come to university.

What types of resources are indexed by library databases?

  • scholarly journals, popular magazines, and newspaper articles
  • reference materials (e.g., entries from dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc.)
  • books, pamphlets, government documents, etc.
  • rare books and special collections

What types of information do library databases provide for these resources?

  • All databases provide citation information about the items they index. A citation typically consists of: author's name, title of article, title of the book, journal, magazine, and newspaper, publisher, date of publication.
  • Most library databases also provide abstracts of the items they index. An abstract is a brief summary of the article.
  • Many library databases also provide the full text (the entire article or book) for items they index, either as a physical object or as a digital file.

How do library databases differ in what they cover?

Some library databases are general - meaning that they index items from many subject areas or academic disciplines. If you're not sure which database to choose, you may want to start your research with OMNI, the library's main database.

Most library databases index items from a specific subject area or academic discipline (e.g., business, health, history, psychology). To locate a database by subject, click on Databases by Subject or browse our Subject Guides.

Can't I get the same articles found in a library database by just Googling it?

In most cases, no. Most of the information retrieved from the open web by using Internet search engines, such as Google, is free. Library databases contain copyrighted, licensed, proprietary information that is purchased by the Library. MacOdrum Library pays yearly subscription fees for its databases.

What’s wrong with just Googling it?

There's nothing wrong with using Google or another search engine to find information on the web. Just keep in mind that most of the information retrieved from the open web hasn't been evaluated. It could be inaccurate, biased, or it might not be current. Also, the authors of web sites might not have the same credentials as the authors of articles found in the library databases. You will need to more carefully evaluate information retrieved on the open web. For that kind of evaluation, use the CRAAP Test. All of the peer-reviewed articles found in the library databases have already been evaluated for accuracy and credibility by discipline-specific experts and publishers. (This doesn't mean you should uncritically accept everything you find in a scholarly journal article. Never, ever, turn off your brain!)

My instructor told our class we can’t use any (or only a few) Internet sources. Can I still use the library databases?

Yes. Library databases use the Internet as a delivery system but they are not considered the Internet. In most cases, your instructor means that they don’t want you using websites or information found on the open web through Internet search engines such as Google. Most of the published resources found in the library databases are not available on the open web. Always clarify with your instructors what they actually mean when the class is told "no Internet sources".

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