Search Tools

So far we’ve talked about all the different source types out there, but that’s just one element of planning your research process. How you discover those sources is a whole different story!

When I ask people what their go-to source is, a good majority respond with: “Google!” However, Google is not actually the source you’ll use to learn more about your topic, Google is the tool you’ll search to find sources like Wikipedia, online newspapers, websites, and  much, much more. The search tool you use to find sources plays just as much a role in your research process as your sources do.

Beyond Google, you are probably familiar with other search tools, like Siri or Alexa, Netflix, or Google Scholar. You might be less familiar with all the search tools on the library website, known as databases.

Most library databases provide access to resources that you would normally subscribe to or pay for, such as a newspaper or academic journals. You can access some articles for free online, but websites often limit the amount of articles you can view freely. For example, if you visit the New York Times online you can read 20 articles for free every month. After that point, you will need to purchase a subscription to read more. But the COCC library subscribes to the New York Times for you so you don’t have to pay for your own access.

Another advantage of using a library database is that the resources are secured and safe to access. Some websites require you to accept additional considerations and agreements  before accessing materials. But what are you agreeing to? Websites, by their nature, are dynamic resources; their content can change without warning. A resource in a database typically will not change and will often come with a permanent link (sometimes called a “permalink”) so that you can find and share the resource in the future.

Library databases also come with additional tools to support your research. These tools can include help with writing citations, easy-to-use filters to limit your search results, and options to save the article for later use. We’ll talk more about how to search library databases in the next part of this textbook, but remember that whenever you use a library database, look for these additional features that will streamline and support your research process.

Some examples of library databases include Academic Search Premier and also some that we’ve mentioned before like CQ Researcher, Opposing Viewpoints, and America’s News.

Sections of this chapter were adapted from the following:
Introduction to College Research by Walter D. Butler, Aloha Sargent, and Kelsey Smith, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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Introduction to Finding Information by Kirsten Hostetler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.