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Research Tutorial

What Are Databases?

In the context of libraries and doing research, the generally accepted definition of a database is "an electronic collection of searchable information on one or more topics."

Right. So we ask again, what are databases?

Image of gate with caption: The good stuff is behind here!

Think of databases as penned up corners of the Internet, sections that have been fenced off and locked, so that a regular Internet search (say, searching Google) won't find what's inside. And of course, it's behind this fence that most of the good information for doing academic research sits.

Why do they make this stuff hard to get to?

Unfortunately, like many things, it comes down to money. The companies who publish academic journals, magazines, and newspapers (all types of material you will find in these databases) need to make money. The people who digitize the content and create the search platforms need to make money. So they restrict access to the database by making them available through subscriptions.

So where does that leave you, the researcher?

With the library, of course!

One of the biggest roles that an academic library plays (and, not inconsequentially, where a large portion of the library's budget goes!) is in providing access to these databases. The library is your key through those locked gates. So rather than going to Google to try to find an academic journal article, come to the library's web page. We know the secret codes to get you in.

Image of key with caption: The library gets you in!

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