It's not just students. When starting research, even professors and librarians are known to use Google (or another web search engine). Despite the availability of higher quality sources, the ease and convenience of that simple single search box is very appealing. Results come back (often in millions of hits!), and the searcher quickly starts to become aware of what has been written on that particular topic on a very broad scale.
One big problem, however, is that the resources that a web search returns are not all at the same level in terms of quality. The searcher needs to take time and effort to sift through and weed out what was written by a high school student for a class project from what was published in a reputable online journal with a peer review process. Remember, anyone can publish on the Internet - this is a good thing and a bad thing.
Another problem is that many (most?) of the very best results, in terms of academic work, are completely absent from a search of the open web. They are hidden in proprietary databases that collect millions of journal articles. These databases are generally only available by subscription - with very hefty pricetags that only a huge institution could afford.
It is the mission of libraries to collect these expensive but vital resources and to provide access to them for their authorized patrons. At UDC, this means current faculty, students, and staff (and on-site users regardless of affiliation). There are hundreds of such collections that can be found in our A-Z Resource List. But where to start? Which to choose? Searching in one generally means ignoring all the others, and to find books (not just articles) that cover your topic, you would need to search the library catalog too. And each of those databases has its own interface, each with just enough differences to confuse you. Ugh. That single Google search box is looking better and better.
But wait! A new service provides UDC patrons with a simple single search box that checks both the library catalog (for books) and an index of millions of articles, dissertations, conference proceedings, and more. It is not 100% complete and never will be, but to start your academic research, there is no better place. Why? Because it weeds out those low quality sites from the open web and includes the high quality hidden subscription-only content, and it returns relevant books side by side with journal articles. Just what your professor asked for!
We are now talking about web-scale discovery - just like with Google, you will probably get too many results, but those results are much higher quality, coming from those expensive subscription databases and the catalog of books that the library has collected. And it is easy to use the refinement facets on the left-hand side of the search results to pare down your results until you are finding only what you want. Try it and see!
— Michael Fitzgerald, Electronic Services Librarian
Next time: how to collect and organize all those results