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Research Foundations: About Library Databases

What are library databases?

Students and researchers generally rely on databases to find scholarly information. A database is an organized, searchable collection of electronically stored information. Library databases can contain anything available in a digital format: articles, ebooks, images, video, audio, and grey literature like conference proceedings and clinical trial reports. Most databases specialize in providing access to scholarly, credible information like academic journal articles, ebooks, and educational videos to use in research projects. Other databases focus on popular and trade publications like magazine and newspaper articles, while others have all three types of publications.

It may be tempting to think of the Web as a giant database; however, while the Web is searchable, it does not have the organization or quality control that you find in databases. And much of the content available from databases is not available freely on the Web. It may require a paid subscription, a pay-per-article fee, or be available as partial-text only. As a current student, you have access to all of the Seminole State College library databases without paying additional fees. You can search or browse the databases using keywords or other identifying information (author, title, etc.) to find results that meet your information needs.

Databases or the Web?

As with the Web, library databases are accessed through the Internet. Both are sometimes referred to as "online resources," however there is a big difference in the quality of research you can obtain from library databases compared to the Web.

 
Factors Web Library Databases
Organization Loose or no organization of pages Organized by subject, title, author, publication, material type, and format
Content Mostly popular sources, some scholarly and trade; most current information Popular, scholarly, and trade sources; relatively current information and historic sources
Credibility No evaluation or peer-review process for information; self-published material Many sources evaluated for accuracy and credibility; reviewed before publication
Access Available to anyone; many scholarly sources are fee based Available to currently enrolled students; full-text access to millions of scholarly sources
Amount Billions of web pages; some duplicate information Millions of articles and thousands of books; duplicates often filtered out by database