Landman Library

Search Engines vs Library Resources

Google Search  

You're probably very familiar with using Google to search for information in everyday life as well as for school projects. Google, Yahoo, and Bing, among others, are search engines, a software system that searches for information on the World Wide Web using keywords and other algorithms, or patterns or rules for organizing data, to list results. 

Google has a complex system that determines what results you get and in what order they appear. Google's algorithm is designed to analyze how many times your keywords appear, and uses their proprietary Page Rank system, among other factors, to order your results. The most relevant and trustworthy sources are often listed first, but not always. Also remember that Google is determining the quality of the sites.

Google is a businessThey make money by selling space for ads, which you see on the search results page and on the websites you visit. Their search results are their product, and their algorithm is the secret sauce that makes their search work so well. That is why Google keeps the details about their algorithm secret. What would happen if a competing search engine could easily get a hold of that information?

Google can't find everything. A majority of the information produced for academic use is not freely available online. Instead it's housed behind a paywall and requires a subscription or affiliation with a university to access the information. The library provides subscriptions that get you around these paywalls. 

Search engines and other online resources like Wikipedia can be a great starting point for your research to generate ideas about your topic and find public information about it. 

However, it's important to understand the limitations of search engines and what you can and cannot access through them. 

Adapted from Maria Accardi & Tessa Withorn's Canvas module Access & Use.