Answered By: APUS Librarians
Last Updated: Jun 05, 2018     Views: 19256

Search engines search the entire world wide web -- a sea of entertainment, news, social networking and information of all kinds.  Whether you prefer Google, Bing or Yahoo -- you probably use a search engine every single day.

Now that so many books, journals, magazines and newspapers are being published on the internet, your favorite search engine can also dig up information to help you in your college classes.  But, since publishers still need to make a living, books or articles that you come across via a search engine may not be free.  And, it's often surprisingly hard to tell which websites are appropriate for college-level research.

The library's databases, on the other hand, were made especially for college-level research:  they search collections of journals, magazines, newspapers, ebooks (and more!) -- often focused on a particular subject.  They also give you, as an AMU or APU student, quick full-text access to hundreds of thousands of subscription-only journals and ebooks.  For that reason, librarians sometimes call subscription databases "the deep web," because they let you dig further into the scholarly literature than an "open web" search engine can.  Not to mention their powerful limiting options that allow you to specify exactly what you're looking for (source type, peer-reviewed, popular, publication date, etc.).

Browse the table below to see some of the ways that databases and search engines differ:


Library Databases

Search Engines

What you're searching:  

Sources published by well-known publishing companies, universities, research groups, etc.  -- such as:

Each of our databases is different.  Click here to read a brief description of each.

Anything and everything that is "out there" on the internet -- both good and bad -- such as:

  • personal/social networking/entertainment sites
  • popular (but unedited) information sites, such as Wikipedia
  • government sites
  • educational sites
  • company/product sites
  • news
  • advertisements
  • publisher websites -- but most of these will not allow full access to their articles, ebooks, etc. without a subscription

Where to begin?

See some tips here. Everyone has their favorite search've probably got yours bookmarked already.

Full text available?

Yes!  Because the library pays for subscriptions to these databases, most of your search results will be available to read (and often download) immediately. 

Click here to learn how to limit your searches to full text only.

It depends.  There are a growing number of open access scholarly sites out there, but many publishers still require subscriptions to access their content. 

When to use:

Any time you have a class research assignment. 
  • When you have time to carefully evaluate your results, and/or track down articles that are not available for free.
  • For personal use, of course.

How to find help:


Wondering why we have so many databases in the APUS Library? Click here to find out.

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