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M E 415: Mechanical Systems Design

Guide to using library resources for students in ME 415.

Why can't I just use Google?

As a librarian I often get asked this question. Both Google and Google Scholar are good tools, but sometimes they are not the best tool. There are good reasons to learn to use scholarly databases for your research, not just Google and Google Scholar.

Google was built to search web pages.

Google indexes webpages which means it's great for searching websites and webpages but not so good with other types of information. Most scholarly articles and reports are not published as webpages which means you should use other tools when looking for these resources.

Google Scholar only covers the open web and access to most scholarly information isn't open.

If you only rely on Google Scholar for academic research you'll miss relevant and important research that isn't available for free online. Why is this? Well, most digital scholarly information is behind paywalls and there is a large volume of information that isn't online - both new and old - that Google Scholar can't index.

The nice thing about most of the Library's scholarly databases is that they cover both open and paywalled information as well as digital and paper resources.

Google only has basic filtering and search features.

Google does make searching very easy. You just type in the box and get results that include your search terms, even if what you searched for was a natural language sentence rather than a phrase constructed of keywords. You'll often get thousands or millions of results when using Google, and your options for narrowing this down to a usable number of highly relevant results are limited. For example, in Google Scholar you can sort your results by date of publication or "relevance" (as determined by Google's algorithm), and you can limit by publication date.

The library's scholarly databases typically provide you with a much broader array of search and filtering tools. For example, in the engineering database Compendex, you have the option to filter your results based on physical properties discussed in the document, document type, controlled vocabulary terms (subject labels that capture documents that may not use your exact search terms but are still relvant), language, and many other parameters.


So, go ahead and start with Google Scholar but don't forget that there are other tools that can help! You can find these on other library guides or browse a list at the link below.

Erin Thomas's picture
Erin Thomas
Contact:
150 Parks Library
Iowa State University
515 294-9886