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Search Engine vs. Database

Posted by on in Search Engines
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In simple terms, a database is an organized collection of information. It is a collection of many journal articles, theses, reviews, reports etc. A database gives you the advantage of significantly narrowing down the resources you have to browse through in order to find what you want. Also it provides more specific sources related to a particular topic, increasing your chances of finding most relevant results for your topic.  

The information you find in a database is more reliable compared to the information you find through a general internet search. The reason is all the content in a database is hand-picked by people who have a certain authority in a subject area and therefore, has gone through review and scrutiny. The fact that the information is also stored in an organized and indexed manner makes searching for specific information easier. For instance, a search can be run by title, author or the publication year. However, the results you retrieve from the internet using your regular search engine may lack this dependability since the results are picked up from different sources or pages on the web.

A search engine does not provide the same reliability assured by a database when it comes to finding authoritative information on a topic, although searching using a search engine is much easier than searching a database. In a database, you may need to have considerable knowledge of “Controlled Vocabulary” – the terms a database deems official – to carry on an effective search. However, this is not required by a search engine. It will search for any keyword or phrase you may type in, and pick up results from the net.

While both have their pros and cons, the choice may ultimately depend on the research question. If you are clear about what you seek, and are confident about the “Controlled Vocabulary”, a database would be a better option. However, if you still haven’t made up your mind and is still looking to narrow down your topic, a cursory search using a search engine might be just what you need.

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