Online Databases & the Internet: Not the Same Thing


A database is a collection of information that is organized so that its contents can be easily accessed, managed, and updated.

The databases in most libraries are usually electronic formats of periodical indexes that have traditionally been created in print.

Periodical Indexes

A periodical index provides a list of articles that have been published on a given topic during a particular time period. Some periodical indexes are very general and cover many subjects; others are specialized and cover one subject in great detail. Many indexes are searchable by computer. Periodical indexes that can be searched by a computer are called electronic indexes or databases. These databases contain the citations and/or abstracts of articles. Some databases even contain entire articles themselves; these are called full text articles.

Online Databases

In many cases, the Internet is used as a tool to connect information in remote electronic periodical indexes to computers around the world. Databases that provide access to their information through the Internet are called online databases. The articles accessed through online databases are not the same as general documents found on the Internet. Libraries subscribe by paying an annual fee to be able to provide access to databases using the Internet to transmit the information. The contents of these indexes, or databases, are just as reliable as the contents of print periodical indexes, and in many cases they are more current than print indexes because they are more easily updated.


UDLib/SEARCH is a program that manages statewide subscriptions to online periodials and encyclopedias for all Delaware public schools. Every computer connected to the Internet in these schools can reach these databases.

UDLib/SEARCH databases contain the full text or citations for thousands of published articles in a vast array of subject areas. The databases are very easy to search, and the articles that they retrieve are produced by reliable sources. These articles are written on the reading level of young students, and they include countless photographs, illustrations, tables, and video-clips to further enhance the research of students.

The Internet

The Internet is the global association of millions of computers that carries data and makes it possible to exchange information from one computer to another.

The Internet is a network of networks, linking computers to computers sharing the TCP/IP protocols. Each runs software to provide or “serve” information and/or to access and view information. The Internet is the transport vehicle for the information stored in files or documents on another computer.

Address or URL (Uniform Resource Locator): Sites in which the URL ends with edu, gov, org, or mil are published by educational institutions, the government, or organizations, and are usually more reliable than those that end with com or net, which are produced by commercial or network organizations.

Authorship: Many pages list the name of the person or organization responsible for creating them. If this information is given, along with the author’s credentials or area of expertise it could be useful in determining if the person is knowledgeable about the topic on which he/she is speaking.

Currency: At the bottom of many web pages, is listed the date that the page was last updated. The currency of a page often impacts the reliability of the information it contains.