Answered By: Allison Ball
Last Updated: Aug 05, 2020     Views: 7852

Websites are great starting points, but databases generally have the edge over websites when it comes to conducting academic research.

Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of both databases and websites.

Databases: pros and cons

What are some of the benefits of using databases?

  • They're ideal for in-depth research on complex topics
  • They contain a large amount of research written by professionals
  • They include easy to add limits to help refine searches and pinpoint topics
  • Authorship and publication information is clear, along with citation information
  • There are no advertisements or paid placements
  • They're free for you through the library

And some of the downsides?

  • It can be hard to find simple explanations or topic overviews
  • Full-text isn’t available for everything, and you always need to log in
  • They often have different interfaces and look more intimidating to search with
  • Aggregated searches (like the library home page) may not search within all databases, so you may miss content

Websites: pros and cons

What are some of the benefits of using websites?

  • They're familiar, easy to search and use
  • Great sources for background information on a subject or topic overviews
  • Great for finding recent, local, or personal information such as current news, government information, organizations, opinions, personal stories, and more
  • Tons of information, usually freely available to you
  • There are lots of credible, open access articles and journals out there; many can be found with Google Scholar or through directories like DOAJ.

And some of the downsides?

  • The internet is full of advertising and paywalls
  • There's no quality control; anyone can create content, and it's often hard to figure out where information came from
  • Top search results are often paid for; you may not be seeing the whole picture
  • There's misinformation and “fake news” to dig through, so you need to spend more time judging the credibility of sources

Your teacher may instruct you to avoid websites, so if you need some help with your research or would like to learn how to use databases effectively you're welcome to come into the library or get in touch with us

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