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Illinois Tech Library Guides

Biomedical Engineering

Why Use a Research Database Instead of Google or Google Scholar?

Despite their learning curve, there are a number of compelling reasons for using a research database rather than Google or Google Scholar.

  • Research databases use controlled vocabulary to optimize both precision and recall.
    • This allows you to zero in on exactly those research papers you need without having to wade through countless irrelevant results or miss essential papers because you didn't choose the right keywords.
  • Research databases are often specialized, focusing on a particular topic or area of study.
    • This helps by removing a large number of irrelevant, off-topic results and focusing your search only in the areas of study that you're interested in.
  • Because of the subject specialization, the controlled vocabulary is usually highly specialized to reflect the needs of the particular area of study.
    • For example, in a psychology or medical database, you can specifically limit your search to studies or clinical trials concerning a particular population group or age group.
  • Research databases carefully evaluate the resources they index to ensure that they are of the highest quality.

Why Use a Research Database Instead of Library Search

Library Search is best for finding general background information on topics--especially books--or for undergraduate students seeking resources for their 100 and 200 level classes. While it provides many benefits over searching Google or Google Scholar, it cannot compete with using a specialized research database for upper level undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate level research. The reasons are similar to those for choosing research databases over Google.

  • Research databases use controlled vocabulary. Library Search does not, so it suffers from the same limits to precision and recall as web search engines.
  • Research databases are more specialized, focusing on a particular topic or area of study. Library Search covers all subjects.
    • Because of the subject specialization, the controlled vocabulary in the specialized databases is usually highly specialized to reflect the needs of that particular area of study.
  • Library Search does NOT search all materials to which you have access as a member of the Illinois Tech community. The most useful or important papers for your topic may not be findable using Library Search. This is more often true of highly specialized papers in the sciences and engineering than for other areas of research or study.

Research Tools at Galvin Library