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Database Searching

Learn how to select a library database for your research topic and how to use the databases to find sources on your topic.

What is a Library Database?

A library database is an online searchable collection of information. Libraries buy subscriptions to databases so you can find research and information on a variety of topics.

Library databases contain tons of information:

  • scholarly peer-reviewed articles
  • newspaper articles
  • trade publications
  • book reviews
  • magazine articles
  • dissertations/theses

The library databases we subscribe to are specific to the academic programs offered on our campus. Our library subscribes to about 140 databases! Each database is made up of articles from specific publications like academic journals and magazines. Each source of information is organized and indexed by subjects terms and keywords based on what the source is about.

What Makes Library Databases Different from Google?

You may be thinking to yourself "Is a library database the same thing as Google?" Yes and no... 

Search engines, such as Google, search the web for freely available information. Google can be considered a database since it contains a collection of searchable information. Just like a library database, Google contains tons of information but the information is a little different. Information can include:

  • personal blogs
  • newspaper articles
  • videos
  • commercial and company sites
  • academic and scholarly articles
  • social media

Library databases contain really specific information that are meant to support your education and coursework at SUNY New Paltz. Google contains all sorts of information which makes it a good place to start your research, but don't stop your research process there. 

When you search for something in Google you get thousands of results. Some of which are sponsored or promotional results - meaning a company is paying Google to promote their information/service. You may also notice that Google sometimes gives you different results. That is because Google uses algorithms (computer programs) to sort through information based on your location and your recent search activity. Check out Google's information page about the algorithms they use. Library databases don't do that. Since all the information found in a library database is organized by subject terms and keywords, library databases uses the keywords you put into the search bar to find you information. 

Why Should I Search in a Library Database?

Because we select databases based on the academic programs offered at SUNY New Paltz, you should be able to find lots of relevant resources in the databases we subscribe to for your assignments. More than likely your professor wants you to find reliable, peer reviewed scholarly sources and library databases contain scholarly resources. Check out the "Selecting a Database" section to learn about all the different kinds of databases we subscribe to!