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Information Literacy Tutorial

Our Library's tutorial covers: research skills, critical thinking and information literacy.

Databases vs. The Internet

The Internet

  • The internet has its place in scholarly research. Searching Google can be useful to begin getting background information on your topic. Government agencies, colleges and universities, and nonprofit organizations all make information freely available on the internet.
  • Searching the Web may feel easier because you can use natural language to do so, such as, "What is ISIL's mission?" or "Is global warming causing more hurricanes and tornadoes?"
  • Unfortunately, there are many downsides to using the Web for research. Much of what appears on the Web, is not only unreliable, it often includes deliberate misinformation. Searches can yield millions of duplicate or irrelevant results.
  • Also, most publishers of scholarly work only make their content available via their own websites, for a fee, or via library subscriptions to databases, so you will not find the kind of results that are best for academic research.


  • Databases are collections of articles, books, audio, images, and more, from trustworthy sources that have been organized in such a way as to make them searchable. This makes them very valuable tools. 
  • Searching databases requires you to be very precise with the language you use. This means your search results are likely to be relevant to the search terms you use, and, assuming that your topic is narrow enough, there is likely to be a more manageable number of results. Databases also have a number of advanced features, usually referred to as limiters because they limit the number of search results to exactly what you request. For example, you can limit a search by publication date, language, document type (e.g., case study, film review, literary criticism), whether the results come from peer-reviewed journals to name just a few.