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Databases vs. the Web

Databases vs. Websites: What's the difference?

What is a Library Database?

  • Library databases contain information from published works. Examples: Magazine and newspaper articles, encyclopedias and other reference books.
  • Library databases are searchable. By Keywords, Subject, Author, Magazine Title, Date, etc.
  • Library databases provide citation information. Author, if available, Title of Article, Publication (Title of Magazine, Newspaper, or Reference Book), Publisher, Date of Publication
  • Library databases often contain full-text articles. You can print or email an entire article.
  • Library databases do not have advertisements. Because database providers are a subscription service, there are no distracting images, videos or text.

How is a library database different from the Web?

Library databases


Library databases get their information from professionals or experts in the field.

Websites may be written by anyone regardless of expertise.

Library databases contain published works where facts are checked.

Website content is not necessarily checked by an expert.

Library databases are easy to cite in a bibliography and may create the citation for you.

Websites often don't provide the information necessary to create a complete citation.

Library databases can help you narrow your topic or suggest related subjects.

Websites often aren't organized to support a student's research needs.

Library databases are updated frequently and include the date of publication.

Websites may not indicate when a page is updated.

Questions to ask about ANY information

Currency: How recent is the information, and when was it last updated?
Organization: Is it easy to locate the information you need?
Accuracy: How reliable is the information, and are the facts accurate?
Bibliography: How easy is the work to cite in a bibliography? Does it give you the author, title, publisher, and date?
Unfamiliar Topics: How useful is it when you don't know where to start?
Any source, whether a library database or website, can have good information.
It is necessary to think critically of all information that you read or view.

(borrowed from the Hennepin County Library)