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Why is searching library databases different than searching Google?

I can always get results in Google, but when I use the same search in a library database, I don't get any results.
Last Updated: Aug 10, 2017  |  935 Views

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Databases differ from Google because:

  • First, there is the difference in what is being searched.  Google is searching the text of entire web pages (of which there are billions), so will often find more matches to what you've typed in.  Library databases are usually searching the text of articles, a much smaller and more reliable set of text.  In addition, some databases may only look in the title, abstract (summary), and subject headings for your keywords.
  • Important: Each database is searching for articles in a different set of newspapers, magazines, and academic journals.  If you are not getting results, you may need to try a different database.  If you would like help in deciding which database to try, contact your Campus Librarians.
  • Next, Google often ignores many of the words you type in (or weighs them differently); whereas, most library databases search for every word you type in.  Choose just a few words that best describe your topic.  Avoid articles (a, an, the) and prepositions (in, of, to, from...), and do not type in a question.
  • Finally, Google assumes the word AND between each word you type in.  This tells the search engine that it doesn't have to find your words right next to each other--it can find each word anywhere on the page.  Most databases expect the user to use the word AND to separate words and phrases, so, for example, the search "teen drinking and driving" makes much more sense to a database than "teen drinking driving", since these words are not likely to be found together like this. Your Campus Library/ARC staff can help you figure out the right keywords for database success.
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