Introduction to Search Systems

A key to finding information sources for an academic project is knowing where to look for them. There are a variety of search systems, tools to locate information, available to help you in this task. Because no single search system covers all information sources, it is important to know which ones to use when looking for specific types of sources.

Library Catalogs Image Databases
Periodical Databases Audio Databases
Government Databases Video Databases
Institutional Repositories Web Search Engines
Dissertations and Theses Databases Archival Databases
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Library Catalogs

Use library catalogs to get information about items physically available in libraries. Sometimes you can also use a library catalog to access electronic resources.

Examples

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Periodical Databases

Use periodical databases to locate newspapers, magazines, journals and articles in them.

Examples

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Government Databases

Beyond legal documents, government databases are good sources of technical and research reports, data sets and information about unpublished works.

Examples

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Institutional Repositories

Institutional repositories collect, preserve, and disseminate in digital form the intellectual output of an institution, especially that of colleges and universities. They are good for locating scholarly articles and books, electronic theses and dissertations, conference proceedings, technical reports, and digitized library and archival collections.

Examples

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Dissertations and Theses Databases

Obviously, these are databases that provide access to dissertations and theses. Some provide only bibliographic information while others include abstracts and sometimes full text.

Examples

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Image Databases

Beyond the images themselves, image databases may provide access to related information such as title, creators, dates, description, source, copyright, etc. Images from subscription databases will usually provide higher quality and more details than those available freely on the Web.

Examples

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Audio Databases

Audio databases usually cover a specific kind of sound recording, such as music, speech, etc. The best databases include related information such as title, creators, dates, description, source, copyright, etc. Audio from subscription databases will usually be of higher quality and have more associated details than those available freely on the Web.

Examples

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Video Databases

Video databases usually specialize in content of a specific genre, source type or intended audience. The following list includes three databases of possible educational value in higher education.

Examples

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Web Search Engines

Web search engines index most pages on the free Web, that is they do not include content for which creators have requested no indexing, sources one has to pay to get, or content that would simply be impractical to index, such as constantly changing weather report pages.

Differently from other databases, indexing is done entirely by computers that store information such as a webpage's URL, title, first heading, first paragraph, and other data. This means that entries do not undergo any sort of human scrutiny to verify that a page actually has the information it is listed as containing. Search engines try to work around this by automatically giving priority to certain sources (e.g., those that many other pages link to).

Typically, the results of a search number in the millions, but savvy users know how to optimize their searches using advanced features. When used this way, Web search engines are good tools to find content from government agencies, educational institutions and non-profit organizations. Aside from this, search engines are the tool of choice for locating informally published content.

Examples

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Archival Databases

Archival databases provide access to rare or unique items in an institution's archives. Content provided is often out of circulation or never published in print.

Examples

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