Google vs. Library Databases: Which is Better for Research?

Google is everywhere - from TV ads to news broadcasts to mobile phones. As popular as it is - is it the most reliable resource for student research? Many academic thought leaders say no. While Google has undoubtedly shaped the way we operate in an online environment, many leading experts agree that it might not be the catch-all domain when it comes to complete and thorough data collecting.

Google's pros
Content moves at a rapid pace with Google, making it great for news-related material. If you need to know what is happening miles away in the news, Google is an excellent Web-based portal that gathers the state of current events at breathless, lightning speed. Google is also very easy to use, which explains its overwhelming popularity with the general public. The sheer amount of content it delivers and the methods with which it delivers that content is impressive - but it isn't the answer to everything, and this includes academic research.

Good content versus great content
When it comes to research, the details are still a bit murky with Google. The overarching answer you will hear from many librarians is that Google doesn't have all of the information that students and researchers are looking for. Old newspapers, magazines and scholarly publications (also known as the "deep Web") may not be accessible via Google due to regionally specific content or age. Google Books has attempted to fill in these holes, but the issues of copyright and the lack of access to sister libraries that many resource locations offer are still a thorn in the side of Google.

Too much isn't a good thing with research
With research, quality trumps quantity. Google definitely gives plenty of information - sometimes hundreds of millions of hits can be obtained from just one keyword. However, with this massive cohort of data, there is a lot of information that students don't want or need. They might spend just as much time sifting through this data as they do actually compiling the research for an important paper or dissertation. Google also allows publications to compete for Web presence. This means that students get the good with the bad, thus furthering the time spent sifting through page results.

Academic databases only offer published data
With sophisticated resources at the library, many research centers will already have the scholarly and peer-reviewed content that students require - and the authority and trustworthiness of the articles don't need to be questioned. Academic databases will also filter out search terms so you end up with around a dozen to several hundred hits after entering information into a source field, according to Yale University. Adding even more advanced filters, such as narrowing down the field or format, can save even more time sifting through unwanted online material.

Google doesn't handle open-ended questions well
In the world of research and databases, the aim of collecting data is to explore thoughts and ideas. If you need to find out what the capital of Delaware is, Google has a specific algorithm that finds the answer for you in a matter of seconds. However, when you get into realms of deeper thought, advanced scientific data or other information that requires scholarly work, open-ended answers students are looking for won't be as easy to find. Google gives you millions of answers, but your librarian will give you the right answer.

Librarians are paid and trained professionals who will understand most of these topics and questions, and will at least point you in the right direction so students can develop their own thoughts and research. Factor in the specialized assurance of a library database, and it seems that the choice is clear when it comes to helping students achieve their goals.

Librarians: A wealth of knowledge for in-depth research
Any piece of scholarly material is going to cite other research related to the topic. With most of the portals or websites you find on Google, you might be lucky if you get a handful of URLs backing up a thesis or point. On the other hand, library databases will point you to detailed, thoughtful bibliographies from other substantial works that can streamline results in a much more professional fashion.

Google can be used for a variety of purposes in the modern age, but for research, it's always best to stick with the professionals. 


Liz Van Halsema
Marketing Content Writer