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Research Support Guide for Law Postgraduate Students and Academic Staff

Research support assistance and useful library resources for Postgraduate students and Academic Staff

What is a Database?

What is a Database?

You've mastered the art of Google search, but for some reason, your professor is telling you to "Use a library database" for your next research assignment. This might have you asking:

A database is a collection of data organized for rapid search and retrieval by a computer. Examples of databases are Academic Search Premier, and the library catalogue, uKwazi.

It is useful to think of databases as containers of information. Just as your refrigerator has many containers of food, a library has many containers or databases of information.

The UWC Library subscribes to many databases, giving you access to millions of journal articles, images, books, technical reports, dissertations, videos, and more.

Databases are essential because they:

  • provide access to information that is often not available through web searches;
  • help researchers locate information relevant to their needs.

Unfortunately, no. There’s still a huge amount of information that is not on the web due to privacy concerns, intellectual property rights, security issues, and many other reasons.

Good and Bad of the Web

A single search on the internet can link you to a thousand Web sites. The Web can be a good source for some information but the library is a more efficient place to search for scholarly materials including articles. On the Web, you may need to wade through many fragments of articles before you find full text that is freely available and appropriate for academic research. 

The web is especially useful for finding:

  • Book and movie reviews
  • Directories
  • Statistics
  • Travel information
  • Government and non-profit websites

Disadvantages of the web:

  • Copyright or ownership of content can be unclear
  • Some content is edited on a minute-by-minute basis by non-experts
  • Snippets of scholarly information (citations) seldom link to full text without the library's linking services


Online resources available to anyone with access to the internet


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