Homework Help: Searching Beyond Google

November 30, 2018 | Yoojin

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Searching on Computers
Most students begin their research on Google.

We all love to Google. Using Google or a similar search engine can provide quick and easy access to information. However, Google alone is not enough when it comes to research. Much of the information retrieved with a Google search has not been evaluated for accuracy or bias. Not only that, but Google can only index the visible or searchable web, which is a small fraction of the resources available to you.  

The resources found in library research databases, on the other hand, are generally not found on the open web. Since they are published material, they are screened by experts for authority, quality and credibility before they are included in the databases. In addition, the library research databases usually provide special features such as refined searching options that help you to find exactly what you need, as well as citation formatting capabilities so that making a works cited page is easy.

Google Word Cloud

So, what is a library database?

Library research databases are organized collections of data and information that can be searched to retrieve published works such as scholarly journals, newspaper and magazine articles, and books. These databases can cover many subjects, like Academic OneFile, or be very specific, like The Shakespeare Collection.  Most of them provide access to full-text articles, so you can save or print the whole article to read.

Toronto Public Library has many databases containing reliable and quality content that are available to to you for free from your computer, even when the library is closed. All you need is a library card.

If you like Wikipedia, try these

Wikipedia is packed with interesting information, but it should not be used as a one-stop shop for research because any user, even those who may not be qualified to do so, can make contributions and edits. That makes the quality of the content questionable. Instead, try:

Britannica Online

The online encyclopedia from Britannica has articles, images, videos, trusted websites, country profiles and a world atlas. It include information at the right level for both children and teens.

Gale Virtual Reference Library

This database has complete research books, text books and an encyclopedia. You can also limit content to your reading level.

Biography in Context

This database has biographies of more than 500,000 people throughout history. It also includes video and audio files.

For students in senior grades, try these

Students in senior grades are often required to include “academic,” “journal,” or “scholarly” articles in their research assignments. These terms are used more or less interchangeably. They refer to a type of article that is authored by experts in a subject and the articles usually report on original research, an experiment or a theory. Try these databases, which give you access to thousands and thousands of quality articles:

Academic OneFile

A great place get started in your search, this database has complete articles from academic journals in many disciplines and also includes other formats.


This is another really large database of articles from scholarly journals, book chapters and primary sources. It's great for arts, sciences, social studies and humanities.

For Canadian information, try these

Grade 9 Canadian Geography and Grade 10 Canadian History courses are mandatory for all high school students. Two useful databases for these courses are:

Canada in Context

This database has articles, audio files and recommended websites on a broad range of topics related to Canada including people, places and events.

Toronto Star Historical Newspaper Archive

Find every newspaper article from the Toronto Star from 1894 to 2015. You can even view full page reproductions of the newspaper to see ads and images.

Students searching on computers
Happy researching!