Most databases are repositories of previously published information, although some may contain original content. Databases are far from stagnant! They are updated constantly, and may contain articles that were just published within the past day or two. The databases we'll feature in this class are ERIC (an Ebsco and ProQuest product); Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts (a ProQuest product), and Education Source (also an Ebsco product). When databases have the same provider, such as Ebsco, then the search page is formatted very similarly for all Ebsco databases, which makes it easy to transition from using one to using another. Although the search interface looks similar, the difference between ERIC and Education Source or other databases lies in the content: the journals contained within that database will differ depending upon what the focus of that database is: education, nursing, psychology and other disciplines have specific databases.
Consider databases as research tools, and like the tools in a literal toolbox, they have specific applications and sometimes take a bit of practice to use effectively. Just as with literal power tools, research tools work most effectively when we use them correctly, which may mean we need to learn a bit in order to get the most out of them.
Is it easier to use a website? Yes. But a Google search, or even a Google Scholar search, will likely not lead you to peer-reviewed academic journals without cost. This is why academic libraries subscribe to databases: to support student research assignments. For academic research, academic databases are the power tool you'll need.
Although the content in databases weighs heavily on articles from academic journals, there are also magazine and newspaper articles in many databases. A brief search of publications contained within the Education Source database includes Time and Newsweek magazines, as well as the New York Times. This does not mean the information contained in newspaper or magazine articles is without value - it often provides great foundational information on a topic - but these are not academic sources.
In addition, not all articles in academic journals contain original research, and peer-review is not a guarantee that the article contains original research. Academic journals often contain informative articles, which may have been peer-reviewed for accuracy, but these are not original research either.