Online Subscription Databases vs. Web Sites

If your instructor has requested that you not use Internet or Web sources, you may want to clarify what they mean. A majority of the library's resources are subscription-based databases/indexes that are accessed via the Internet.

Subscription Databases

Subscription databases consist of published journals, magazines, reports, documents, newspapers, books, image collections, and more. Most of these databases are available via the Internet, some are available within the library on DVD or CD-ROM.

Libraries subscribe and provide access to these resources for their patrons. Subscription databases are not freely available to the public. The UAF Rasmuson Library contracts with vendors, such as OCLC FirstSearch, Cambridge Scientific Abstracts, Proquest and others, to provide pre-selected journals and magazines that meet specific criteria established for universities. When you search one of these databases, you are not searching the Web; you're searching pre-selected material that is the equivalent of what you migh find on a library shelf in print format. Rasmuson and BioSciences Libraries' Resources by Subject page provides access to subscription databases to which the Rasmuson Library subscribes. These databases provide easy access to many scholarly, technical, and professional journals, spanning all disciplines.

  • When you search for articles in a subscription database, articles that appear in full-text may also appear in printed format. For example, if you search the Proquest database New York Times Book Review you'll be able to retreive articles online; The library may also have some of these articles in print.

    Rasmuson library is in the process of discarding some print journals, magazines, and newspapers if we have a online subscription to the same resource.

  • Resources in subscription databases are easily identifiable by their citation information.
    • For journals: author, title of article, title of journal, volume and issue number, date, and page numbers.
    • For books: author, title, place of publication, name of publisher, and date.

Internet or Web Sources

Internet or Web sources include web sites of businesses, organizations, government agencies, universities and individuals.

Most Internet or Web sites are publicly accessible for free. Access to copyrighted information, however, may still be limited or available via subscription only. Many sites also provide access to quality information. Unfortunately, quality sites reside right alongside total rubbish. Web sites are inexpensive to create and may have been created by anyone with any level of expertise.

  • In most cases, there is no editorial or peer-review process for Web pages. This means reliability of web pages is not dependable.
  • Internet or Web sources have Internet addresses or Uniform Resource Locator codes (URLs). This makes them easily identifiable. For example: The URL address identifies The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: A Special Report. However, URLs change frequently and URL information is not as reliable as the citation information provided in subscription databases..
  • Internet or Web sources are accessible via Internet search engines. Search engines use programs such as spiders, robots (bots), webcrawlers, etc. to search for terms in web pages and store them in a database. It is important to note that all search engines do not search in the same manner, or search the same material, and may rank hits differently. Ranking may depend on how many times or where your term(s) appear in the page or whether a fee has been paid to rank the page prominently. Therefore, careful evaluation of Web resources is essential.

Be sure to read Evaluating Information Resources for information on evaluating information resources.

This page was last modified on July 12, 2012