Skip to Main Content

Information Essentials: Using search engines

What are search engines?

Web Search engines are automated systems designed to locate material on the Web. They do not use Human editors to vet sources (as do Library Databases), and are limited to material found on the Open Web.

Are they the same as a Library?

No, they're not. There are two main differences between a Library system, and a Search engine: Authority and Access.

  1. Authority: A Search engine trawls the open Web, and so you'll find information from numerous sources (expert and amateur), whereas a Library consists of curated collections of materials that better reflect quality information;

  2. Access: Search engines only search the open Web (Web Crawlers are excluded from indexing proprietary, Deep Web sources), this is a very broad search, but not so deep a level of material Library databases pay subscription to.

If you imagine: Library systems introduce you to good quality friends at a small party, Search engines allow you to speak to anyone off the street. This does not mean you cannot find good quality friends off the street, but you're more likely to find good conversation at a party!

What are Web Search Engines Good for?

Library databases are best to use if you're looking for specialist, peer-reviewed, scholarly information. However, these sources may not reflect current industry practices. Web Search engines are better for less expert, but more up-to-date material.

For example, a Web Search engine would be best to find news on a political party, but for discussion of their political theories, a Library Database would be better.

Hierarchy of Uses for Web Search Engines Versus Library Databases

Google Scholar is a Web Search engine run by Google that indexes scholarly literature like peer-reviewed journals, academic books, conference papers, and more.

As such, Google Scholar is a good way to find "grey literature," or material like conference papers that have not been published in traditional ways.

However, Google Scholar may have more "noise" in its results, including non-scholarly and duplicate material.

Google Scholar is good for
  • Helping a beginning researcher identify journal titles and authors connected with subjects of interest
  • Finding "grey literature" like conference proceedings. It includes many articles that wouldn't get included in other indexing services
  • Locating obscure references that are proving difficult to find in conventional databases
  • Locating more information on partial citations
Google Scholar cannot
  • As with Google and other Web Search Engines there is limited Advanced search
  • Relies on Keywords, not expert Metadata
  • Limit search results (beyond year, no "Peer Reviewed," etc.)
  • Search the deep web

Find It @ ECU

Google Scholar interlinks with ECU Library systems.

Google Scholar returns a lot of results, some of which may be available via free PDF, however, many are behind Library Database pay-walls.

By linking your Google Scholar account with ECU Library, Google Scholar will allow you to link directly to our subscription Databases, allowing you free access to material ECU owns.

Go to the Settings menu on the Google Scholar site, to Library Links, and search for "Edith Cowan University."

Once selected, you will find "FindIt@ECU" as an option below every result.

Note: In order to use these functions, you require a Google Sign-In and allow Google to save Cookies in your Browser (somewhat impinging your Privacy).

Related Content