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EVST 276: Market-Based Conservation Policy: Search Strategy. Databases vs. Search Engines

Natural Language and Boolean Searching

Keywords for Searching

Search Tips and Strategies
First, generate a set of terms and phrases related to your topic. Think of synonyms.

environment     ecology          nature 

degradation      pollution         contamination

justice             injustice          effects         “human impact”

regulation         legislation       policy

Redlands < “Southern California” < California < “Western United States”

Using operators and symbols: AND, OR, *, and " "                                      
environment* AND (restor* OR protect*)

Using the AND operator narrows your search to only results that mention both keywords.  Use the OR operator to search for variants or synonyms of the same keyword.  The asterisk (*) is a wildcard symbol that is used to catch variant endings of a word (restore, restoration, restoring, etc.).

“cultural internationalism” AND migration

Use quotation marks to search for a specific phrase.  For example, you may need to type in "border studies" in databases, search engines (Google), or our library catalog to ensure that the system searches for that exact phrase.

Why can't I just Google?

La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia

Databases vs. Search Engines (Google)


What is a database?

  • Library databases allow you to efficiently search for published information such as magazine, journal, and newspaper articles. Library databases can be general (all disciplines) or discipline-specific (e.g. a psychology database).

Why use a database?

  • Reliable – Many articles found in library databases have undergone a peer review process and are generally more reliable than information found on the Internet. Additionally, databases provide all the information you need to evaluate a source for credibility (such as author name, publication details, and a summary).
  • Relevant – Library databases allow you to customize your search to get the most relevant results. You can search using keywords, discipline-specific terminology, subject headings, and descriptors. You can also search by author, title, and limit your results using various criteria (date, source type, etc.).
  • Accessible – Databases often provide access to the full-text of an article so you do not need to go to the library to retrieve it in person. Additionally, database access is purchased by libraries for its patrons which allows you to access otherwise pricey information at no charge.

Search Engines

What is a search engine?

  • A search engine, such as Google or Yahoo!, uses computer algorithms to search the Internet and identify items that match the characters and keywords entered by a user.

Why use a search engine?

  • Search engines are useful for finding information produced by governments, organizations, groups, and individuals. Examples of reliable information you can find through a search engine include freely available statistics published by a government agency or a freely available article published by a reputable news outlet.
  • Note: It is more challenging to narrow results effectively, find relevant material, and assess the legitimacy of information in your search results when using a search engine.

How do I know when I should use a search engine and when I should use a database?

  • It depends on what type of information you are hoping to find and how you plan to use it. If you want credible, scholarly articles, you will have more success finding relevant sources in a library database free of charge. If you want Census data, it is more efficient to find that through a search engine that guides you to the appropriate government website.

University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign