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BIO 130 Rhodes: Article Databases vs. the Internet

Research guide to help students with their projects on current issues in biology

What is a Scholarly Article?

Scholarly articles are written by experts in the field and, additionally, peer reviewed by a panel experts in the field.  They tend to include a lot of research and data, and the information in the article is backed up by a list of references. 

Example of a Journal with Scholarly Articles

Popular articles are often written by journalists for a general audience and are not reviewed by experts in the field.  Popular articles rarely include references.

Example of a Magazine with Popular Articles

For more detailed information on what a scholarly article looks like, see the excellent tutorial Anatomy of a Scholarly Article.

Article Databases vs. the Internet

 Library Databases

Internet Search Engines

Types of Information Retrieved

  • Scholarly journal articles
  • Popular magazine articles
  • Newspaper articles
  • Reference book articles (e.g., directories, encyclopedias)
  • Books
  • No sponsors or ads
  • Few free scholarly journal articles, popular magazine articles, and books.
  • Popular web sites (e.g., Wikipedia, Facebook)
  • Commercial web sites (e.g., eBay, Amazon)
  • Government, educational, and organizational web sites (e.g., Library of Congress, JSRCC)
  • Current news & information (e.g., CNN)
  • Email, chat (Gmail, AIM)
  • Many sponsors and ads.

When to Use

  • Best for college level research.
  • When you need to find credible information quickly.
  • Best for personal information needs including shopping and entertainment.
  • When you have time to more carefully evaluate information found on the open web.

Creditability / Review Process

  • Articles and books written by journalists or experts in a professional field.
  • All material in database is evaluated for accuracy and credibility by subject experts and publishers.
  • Reviewed and updated regularly.
  •  Lack of control allows anybody to publish their opinions and ideas on the Internet.
  • Not evaluated (for the most part). Need to more carefully evaluate web sites for bias, accuracy, and completeness.
  • Many sites are not updated regularly and can become outdated.
Will it be there next week?  Will it look the same?
  • Most material remains in the database for a signicant length of time and can easily be retrieved again.
  • Published content from journals, magazines, newspapers and books does not change.
  • Website content can often change.
  • Web pages and sites may disappear for a number of reasons.  You may not be able to retrieve the same content later.

An illustration: Popular vs.Scholarly