Databases vs. Websites

Trocaire College Libraries

College Research: Web or Database?

While you may want to use a website to find information for your research project it may not be the best option for your needs. Easier is not always better when you are working on a college-level project.

This guide illustrates the differences between a College Library Database and the Web.

Library Databases

Libraries subscribe to appropriate databases for student and faculty research. Libraries pay large fees for these resources and since the information is so costly, access is limited to registered students, faculty and members of the college. At Trocaire College, the library subscribes to 100's of databases that are helpful for general subjects as well as allied-health related courses, sciences, computer science and others.

These databases are available from anywhere with an internet connection and a login. They make the search for peer-reviewed articles and other materials incredibly easy. These databases have been checked for accuracy and reliability by publishers, then licensed for distribution in electronic format.

What is a database?

  • A collection of records, records are a collection of fields, fields are containers for specific information.

What is a Library database?

This is a type of database that indexes sources that may provide:

  • full-text periodical articles [this includes popular magazine articles, news, trade or professional articles and scholarly research articles]
  • full-text encyclopedic/reference sources [most of these essays are written by subject experts and provide excellent topic overviews]
  • full-text books or chapters of books [e-books], Thesis/dissertations
  • government/primary documents; [congressional reports and laws]
  • images, audio clips or video clips; [streaming video, podcasts, music, etc]
  • statistical information
  • citations and/or abstracts of articles or books
  • reviews
  • Conference papers

Are there different types of library databases?

Yes, so it is important to match your subject need with the coverage of the database. Some databases are:

  • Subject-related or focused
  • Interdisciplinary- covers a wide range of disciplines
  • Collection or publisher: For example an eBook database from a particular publisher
  • Indexing service- full text or citations or abstracts* or a combination

*If materials are not available full-text, click on the 360 Link, it may direct you to another database. If the library doesn’t hold it in electronic form, check to see if it is owned in print. If not, you may request the item through Interlibrary Loan.

Using Library Databases

Library databases are available on or off campus. You will need to log on to the database so that the database knows that you are authorized to use it. These are the best resources in finding appropriate scholarly materials for college-level research.

Once you select a database, the search screen appears. It is familiar in that it has search boxes that you may type in your search term(s).

Databases have the ability to narrow down your results with:

  • Limiters such as: date published, type of article (scholarly or popular), full-text, ages, country, and others
  • Boolean operators: AND, OR and NOT (see Search Strategies)
  • Using a Thesaurus, controlled vocabulary or scholarly/professional language

The great things about library databases:

The Web

Although the Web is free, there are a lot of problems and hurdles using it for college-level research.

  • Your usage and information may be bought or sold by companies in exchange for access. (see URLs & Domains)
  • Search engines, like Google, may be easily used and produce results in seconds, but usually the results are overwhelming
  • Your results are also determined by your past searches, money paid to companies that operate search engines and the tags on websites
  • There is no authority overseeing the web. Is it reliable, factual, scholarly enough?
  • You have to take an extra step to investigate the information. (see Evaluating Information)
  • Usually websites do not provide citation information

The Web is a great tool for many things, but for college-level research using library databases is more trustworthy. You can use websites for research, just make sure that they are accurate and reliable. (see Evaluating Information).

If you have any questions, ask a librarian today!

Revised & Updated June 2020