3. Information sources

Information sources

You can find information in many ways and in many places, for instance by using search engines like Google or the (digital) sources the library offers.

Internet offers more and more information, but not handily collected in one place, with questionable quality and sometimes behind a log-in page or paywall... 

Did you know that:

  • Google indexed less than half of the internet?
  • search results from search engines aren't checked on quality and reliability?
  • the ranking of search results is heavily influenced by commercial, nationalistic and statistical arguments? 
  • not all (scientific) information is digitally available?

That why popular search engines can lead to problems when you are searching for (scientific) information. As you can see in the picture below, only a very small portion of the internet (the visible web) is reachable by everyone. 

Original image released by Ranjithsiji under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license on 17 April 2018.Modified by Flori4nK for a more accurate representation., CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

To find all relevant publications about your topic, you should use the sources that the library recommends and has subscriptions to. These sources are search in the deep web to, are checked for quality and reliability, and offer information in a structured way.

Library vs. Google

3.1 Catalogues


A catalogue contains a description of books, journals and audiovisual material, including where you can find them. The location information is either a link to the digital copy or a location code of where the printed book is in the bookcases of the library.

To browse and search in the collection of the Hanze Library, you can use HanzeWorldCat. This is our digital catalogue.

3.2 Databases


A database contains the bibliographic reference and sometimes the full-text version of scientific publications (often journal articles).


Types of databases:

  • Bibliographic databases: only contain the reference of the article, sometimes with a short summary (abstract) or description. Some bibliographical databases will link to the full-text version on a different site.
  • Full text databases: contain the reference and the full-text version of the article. Often, you can download the article. Some databases will have an archive function, so will show journals from certain years, but not the newest year(s), where other databases only show the most recent years of journals/articles.
  • Citation databases: Contain bibliographical references and also a link to the citations of the article (=other publications that referred to this reference in their text).

3.3 Reference works

Reference works

Reference works contain a whole series of short explanations about a word, person or concept. We are talking about dictionaries and encyclopedia's, which you can use to find definitions, translations, explanations and synonyms of (search) terms.


Types of reference works:

  • Encyclopedia's: contain information about people and concepts 
  • Dictionaries: contain information about words

3.4 When do I use which information source?

What information is best for me?

It's important to be aware of the type of information you're looking for. If you have a clear idea of what you want to find, it is also easier to make decisions in the search process, such as where you want to start. Here are some handy tips:


3.4.1. I'm looking for basic information about a topic

What sources should I use?

Reference works: handy when you are looking for general information about a concept (encyclopedia) or a word (dictionary).


  • You'll find a brief description on your topic, often accompanied by a short referencelist.
  • Good introduction to the topic of your paper.
  • Quick way to find information on something or someone.
  • Handy for finding relevant synonyms about your topic.

Sometimes only a printed edition of a reference work is available. You will have to come to the library to explore them.

3.4.2. I'm looking for publications from a specific author or about a specific topic

What sources should I use?

  • Catalogues: To locate printed and digital sources that the library provides access to.
  • Databases: To access online sources full of articles, sounds, pictures and more


  • To explore and understand your topic in more detail.
  • To read what researchers write about your topic.
  • To learn about different theories and hypotheses about (aspects of) your topic.
  • To test your theories/hypotheses using different reliable sources.

3.5 Search Engines

Search engines

The internet contains an insane amount of information. It's quite a challenge to find exactly what you're looking for in this sea of information. Here are some tips to make searching with an search engine more efficient.

These tips for typing your Google search can help you search more efficiently with search engines (especially Google):

  • AND OR ( ) in all caps, pay attention on where to place the ( ).
  • filetype:pdf . Consequetively and in small print. Results all have a PDF attached.
  • ........... should be used when searching on compound terms (for instance "social history") and phrases (such as "cycling in Limburg").
  • 2010..2014 typed consequetively. Limits the publication date to the given range.
  • -........... typed consequetively. Excludes this word (=Boolean operator NOT).
  • ~.......... typed consequetively. Searches for results with possible synonyms in them too (for instance ~navo also gives "nato" results.
  • allintitle:........ typed consequetively. Searches in the headers of webpages, not all the text on the webpages.
  • inurl:........ typed consequetively. Searches in the url of a website, not in the text on the webpages.

Search engines often have an advanced search too, which is handy, but limited in options compared to the advanced search options in databases.

NB: Everyone can upload their text on the web and be an internet author, without editors checking what is uploaded. YOU will have to check the reliability of publications.


Google Scholar

Google Scholar sits between a database and a search engine, and is therefore also called a scientific search engine. It has the looks of normal Google, but the big difference is that the search results are only citations and links to scientific/academic literature. These results will also pop up in normal Google, but with so many more results around it, that it's harder to find.

Google Scholar sorts results on relevance. The full-text version of the articles are checked for relevant search terms, and it keeps the (fame of the) journal, the author and the number of citations in mind when checking the relevance of a result. 

Click the link to open Google Scholar, or check out the Minilecture to learn more tips and tricks in Google Scholar.

Minilecture Google Scholar

Go to step 4