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Tackling Information Problems (TIP): Select appropriate information sources

Information Literacy tutorial for undergraduate students

Select appropriate information sources

Once you know exactly what you're looking for, your next step is choosing the best information sources for your topic. 

Finding scholarly information: Google vs. library databases

Google is a useful resource for helping you find current information on your topic, and a Google search often generates a number of good sources. However, you should not rely solely on Google results when writing an academic paper. Why not? There are some distinct advantages to searching library databases. 

  • Nearly all search engines lack the sophisticated search options that databases (including library catalogs) provide. Because of this, searches will often return thousands and thousands of webpages. It's just impossible to sift through so many results.
  • In library databases, articles and books are assigned subject terms by people who review each item. These subject terms are selected from a specific list of possible subject terms. If a subject term is used for one article or book on the topic, the same term will be used for other articles or books on the topic. In contrast, the information on the public web is totally unstructured. 
  • Scholarly information on the public web is only a small portion of the total number of scholarly information published worldwide. If you only search Google, you will definitely miss some important sources.
  • Searching Google is very time-consuming because you need to consider many issues before you can use a webpage as a source.
    • ​ Is the information from a reliable source?
    • What are the author’s credentials?
    • Is the information accurate? Biased? Outdated?
    • Are sources clearly cited?
    Only after answering all of these questions can you be sure that your web source is appropriate for a university-level text.
  • The vast majority of scholarly publications is not freely available. It is proprietary, meaning someone -- an author or a publisher -- owns the information. It is only available from licensed databases, paid for by libraries or institutions. All of the information contained within a licensed database is reliable, while the quality of information on the Internet is always in question. 

By searching only library databases and limiting your search to scholarly or peer-reviewed sources, you can be certain that all materials retrieved will be appropriate for your paper or thesis.

Where to find the catalog, the journals & the databases

Go to the library's LibSearch page. This page provides access to

  • the library catalog WorldCat Discovery,  a search engine that searches in the library's collection of books and journal articles, as well as in the collections of other libraries worldwide. Check the WorldCat Discovery webpage for more info.
  • a list of all journals that the library subscribes to.  
  • an alphabetical directory to all of our databases, as well as an option to view a list of databases in your subject; 

Off-campus access to library databases

On campus all e-journals, e-books and library databases can be accessed by students and staff. When you are off campus, you need a VPN connection for access to the databases.

What is a VPN?
A virtual private network, or VPN, is an encrypted connection over the Internet from a device to a network.

More information
On the library's website you can download the appropriate VPN software for your machine.

Full text not provided in the database?

If the articles you find in the databases you use do not offer the full text of the articles, be sure to check the TiUfinder link to determine if another database offers the full text of the articles.

Database overview page

The university library subscribes to a range of databases (120+). Some cover all subject areas (e.g. Web of Science), some cover particular types of publication (e.g. LexisNexis Academic NL Dutch newspapers), and some cover specific subject areas (e.g. PsycINFO, Sociological Abstracts, EconLIT, Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts). Below is a screenshot of the Economics database list: 

  1. Filter this list alphabetically by first letter of title. 
  2. Filter the list by entering a term. This will then show those databases that contain this word in the database title, description, or keywords. It does not search inside the database itself. If you enter multiple terms, the result will be databases that match all terms.
  3. Click a keyword to see all databases associated with that keyword.  Note that 2 different kinds of keywords are assigned:
    • Form (relating to the type of publication, eg journal articles), and
    • Contents (relating to the subjects covered by the databases, eg economics). 
  4. Click the More ... link  in the description field to find even more descriptive information about the database. 
  5. Click the database's title  to access and search the contents of the database.