What is a Database?
For students and other academic researchers, database often refers to a subscription database, or a searchable collection of published information from a variety of sources, such as academic journals, magazines, government documents, and more. The library pays to subscribe to these databases, or pays to get access, in the same way it subscribes to individual magazines and journals. Most subscription databases have some full-text articles as well as citations to articles, which do not include the full text of the article. Some databases, like ARTstor, contain mostly images.
Why Should I Use a Database?
Although websites and databases are available online, the biggest difference is quality of information you get from each one. Library databases have peer-reviewed articles that have been checked for quality and authority (and are well-researched).
You can also great information available for free on the Internet, it just takes a little more work to use it. The Website Evaluation Checklist will help you to think critically about the information you find on the Internet and whether or not it is useful. If you are looking specifically for scholarly articles, try using Google Scholar. If you need tips about using Google Scholar, take a look at the Google Scholar page.