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What Is A Database And How Do I Use It?: What is a Database?

The library subscribes to about 32 databases, but when and how to use these resources can be overwhelming and confusing for many students, but especially to those with little or no previous experience with research databases.

This guide will define databases and explain how they are used. Additionally, this guide will clarify the differences between using the Internet and search engines for research vs. databases.

The guide below relates directly to this Libguide and can be used for a deeper understanding of the overall research process.

What is a library database?

A library database is an electronic catalog, index, and digital warehouse for published materials. These materials most commonly include magazine, newspaper, and journal articles.  Often, other items such as books, videos, and audio files are included as well. 

Databases are highly organized and allow students to search for information on a topic by keyword, subject, author, title, and phrase. Most databases at Taft College provide access to full-text content, which means that you will find entire articles available, not just summaries or citations of articles.

I already know how to use Google. Why Should I Use A Library Database?

Google and search engines are important research tools that students will continue to use for many assignments. However, Taft College instructors will also require that students use what are called "scholarly", "credible" or "peer reviewed" resources.  Databases satisfy all three of these types of resources just mentioned because the articles within are written by experts in their field and/or the information has been evaluated for accuracy before being published.

Information from Google must be evaluated carefully. For instance, what are the author's qualifications?  How current is the information? Is the information even accurate? When you choose a database article, all of these questions have already been answered.


My instructor said I cannot use Internet sources for my assignment. Does this include library databases?

Usually instructors mean that you cannot use sources found through a Google search, Wikipedia or random websites.  Databases use the Internet for access, but most articles in databases are not available through web searches. However, always verify with your instructor exactly what type of sources are acceptable. Trying to guess what they want you to use could hurt your grade.

This guide was copied/remixed with permission from: Erich Heintzelman of Valencia College Library whose work What is a Database: How do I Use It?