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Evaluating Sources: Wikipedia vs. Google vs. Databases

A guide to evaluating information and resources found online and in print.

Which should I use?

It's okay to use Wikipedia or Google to find the definitions of terms or related keywords AND get a general understanding about a topic.

But along with great information, there’s misleading junk as well. Your professor will want you to use authoritative materials, so evaluate information found on the web closely. Generally, Wikipedia articles are not accepted as final supporting resources.


A free online encyclopedia. Wikipedia comes from a combination of the words "wiki" meaning shared website and "pedia" which is a shortened form of encyclopedia. Wikipedia supports content in 260 different languages. There are 75,000 "hot authors" on Wikipedia who are responsible for constantly maintaining and adding to the site's database. Wikipedia is solely maintained by volunteers, anyone can sign up and start adding or editing pages right off the bat. There's no ranking system which lets certain authors edit some pages and not others. Wikimedia is hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation.

Wikipedia's content is often NOT accepted as a reliable source of information by professors as the content can be changed by almost anyone.

However, individual entries often include "Notes" or "References" at the end that could be used in a research paper. These "Notes" and "References" must be evaluated for scholarly material. See the Evaluating Sources guide for more information about what constitutes a reliable and scholarly source.

Search Engines

These search engines search for information on the web. HOWEVER, as search engines search across all websites, results are often not scholarly in nature.

Databases from the Library

Advantages of Using Auraria Databases

  • Online access to full-text, peer-reviewed journal articles at no cost.
  • Resources that you can trust!

Plain Talk About Databases

  • Your tuition dollars work for you when Auraria Library purchases database subscriptions. Take advantage of these resources while you are enrolled here.
  • Most of the databases feature e-mail capability. You can often email journal articles and citations to yourself at no cost. You can also save articles to a temporary folder [ Student (E:) Drive ] on a library workstation and attach them to an email.
  • Most databases offer the option to save your articles, your searches and research links to a removable flash drive, at no cost. Flash drives are inexpensive. Carry one with you; use it the library or in your labs.
  • Many documents indexed in databases are retrieved and displayed full-text in either HTML or Adobe PDF format. PDF files can be saved and read with Adobe Acrobat Reader, a free software program.

"Value-Added" Research Using Auraria Databases

  • Information in proprietary databases at Auraria is "value-added." By value-added we mean that it has been selected, indexed, described and packaged in a way that you can't always find for free on the web.
  • Proprietary databases offer more powerful searching options than internet search engines.
  • As an Auraria student you never have to pay when using an Auraria database subscription.