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Master of Energy Business: Library Databases vs. Google

This Library Research Guide will introduce library resources relevant to students enrolled in the Master of Energy Business Program

Library Databases vs. Google

While there are newspapers and other services, like Google Scholar, available free online, the library databases are services to which McFarlin pays to have access. Most of the articles contained in the library databases cannot be found through a search engine.

What is a library database?

A library database, such as Academic Search Complete or JSTOR is an organized collection of electronic information that allows a user to search for a particular topic, article, or book in a variety of ways (e.g., keyword, subject, author, title). Library databases contain thousands to millions of records or articles. The library purchases subscriptions to these databases (similar to purchasing a subscription to a magazine or newspaper).

What types of resources are indexed by library databases?

  • scholarly journals, popular magazines, and newspaper articles
  • reference materials (e.g., entries from dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc.)
  • books, pamphlets, government documents, etc.

What types of information do library databases provide for these resources?

  • All databases provide citation information about the items they index. A citation typically consists of: author's name, title of article, title of the book, journal, magazine, and newspaper, publisher, date of publication.
  • Most library databases also provide abstracts of the items they index.  An abstract is a brief summary of the article.
  • Many library databases also provide the full text (the entire article or book) for items they index.

How do library databases differ in what they cover?

Some library databases are general - meaning that they index items from many subject areas or academic disciplines. If you're not sure which database to choose, you may want to start your research with our most comprehensive and general database, Academic Search Complete. Most library databases index items from a specific subject area or academic discipline (e.g., business, health, history, psychology). To locate a database by subject, browse our LibGuides (Library Research Guides). Each LibGuide will suggest the most useful or appropriate databases for doing research in that field of study.

How do I access and use the library databases?

The library databases can be accessed from the library’s home page by scrolling down to the book a the bottom of the screen, then clicking on the "Online Sources" tab.  Then click on "Search more databases by Subject/Title" in the little iPad looking thing.

If you need to use a library database from off-campus, be sure to access it through the McFarlin website, the catalog, or a LibGuide.  Because we must authenticate you as a TU student before letting you into the database, you will be prompted to login with your last name and TU ID number.  The databases are accessible 24/7.  If you need help in using any of them, just ask a librarian for assistance.

Can't I get the same articles found in a library database by just Googling it?

In most cases, no.  Most of the information retrieved from the open web by using Internet search engines, such as Google, is free.  Library databases contain copyrighted, licensed, proprietary information that is not free.  McFarlin Library pays yearly subscription fees for its databases just like it has always paid yearly subscription fees for its print journals, magazines, and newspapers. 

What’s wrong with just Googling it?

There's nothing wrong with using Google or another search engine to find information on the web. Just keep in mind that most of the information retrieved from the open web hasn't been evaluated. It could be inaccurate, biased, or it might not be current. Also, the authors of web sites might not have the same credentials as the authors of articles found in the library databases. You will need to more carefully evaluate information retrieved on the open web. All of the articles found in the library databases have already been evaluated for accuracy and credibility by discipline-specific experts and publishers.  (This doesn't mean you should uncritically accept everything you find in a scholarly journal article.  Never, ever, turn off your brain!)

My instructor told our class we can’t use any (or only a few) Internet sources. Can I still use the library databases?

Yes.  Library databases use the Internet as a delivery system but they are not considered the Internet.  In most cases, your instructor means that they don’t want you using websites or information found on the open web through Internet search engines such as Google.  Most of the published resources found in the library databases are not available on the open web.  Always clarify with your instructors what they actually mean when the class is told "no Internet sources".

Adapted from Library Instruction - Package Two - 75 Minute Session by J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College Library.  Used with permission.

Comparison Table

The table below compares the various differences between library databases and Internet search engines:

Library Databases

(e.g., Academic Search Complete or JSTOR)

Internet Search Engines

(e.g. Google or Bing)

Types of Information Retrieved

  • Scholarly journal articles
  • Popular magazine articles
  • Newspaper articles
  • Reference book articles (e.g., directories, encyclopedias)
  • Books
  • No sponsors or ads
  • Few free scholarly journal articles and books.
  • Popular web sites (e.g., Wikipedia, Facebook)
  • Commercial web sites (e.g., eBay, Amazon)
  • Educational web sites (e.g., TU)
  • Government web sites (e.g., Library of Congress,
  • Statistics (e.g., U.S. Census Bureau)
  • Organizational web sites (e.g., American Psychological Association)
  • Current news & information (e.g., CNN)
  • Email, chat (e.g., Gmail, Facebook Messenger, Google Talk)
  • Many sponsors and ads.

When to Use

  • Best for university level research.
  • When you need to find credible information quickly.
  • Best for personal information needs including shopping and entertainment.
  • When you have time to more carefully evaluate information found on the open web.

Creditability / Review Process

  • Articles and books written by journalists or experts in a professional field.
  • All material is evaluated for accuracy and credibility by subject experts and publishers.
  • Reviewed and updated regularly.
  • Lack of control allows anybody to publish their opinions and ideas on the Internet.  
  • Not evaluated (for the most part).  Need to more carefully evaluate web sites for bias, accuracy, and completeness.
  • Many sites are not updated regularly and can become outdated.

Cost / Accessibility

  • Library databases require subscriptions and cost money.  They are paid for by the library.  You will have access to them as long as you're a TU student.
  • To access the McFarlin databases from off-campus, you will need to logon with your last name and TU ID number.  Be sure to access them by going through the library's website, catalog, or a LibGuide.  Don't try to Google to them or bookmark them.
  • Most information found through a search engine is free. 
  • Library databases cannot be accessed through search engines or the open web.
  • Many web sites found through Internet search engines contain licensed, proprietary information and require you to logon with a user account.  You must already be a member or pay for a subscription in order to access the material from these web sites.


  • The organization and various search capabilities of library databases allow users to search for and retrieve focused and relevant results.
  • Less ability to search for and retrieve precise results using search engines like Google.  Need to wade through a “grab bag” of results.

Constancy / Permanence / Stability

  • Published content from journals, magazines, newspapers and books does not change.
  • Most material remains for a significant length of time and can be easily retrieved again.
  • Web site content can often change without notice.
  • Web pages and sites may disappear for a number of reasons.  May not be able to retrieve the same content at a later time.


  • Many databases (such as those in EBSCOhost) include a citation tool that will automatically generate an APA or MLA style reference for the article you select.  You may still need to “tweak” this citation but these tools serve as a good starting point for citing your articles in a particular format.
  • Most web sites found on the open web do not provide a citation tool or an already formatted APA or MLA style reference for the web pages on their site.  You will need to start your citation from scratch using APA or MLA style manuals or handouts from your instructor or the library.