Answered By Library Staff
Last Updated: Jan 04, 2023     Views: 39

It can be daunting to choose from one of our 130+ databases available at the TCC Library, especially if you don't know the difference between a database and a catalog.

One thing to note is our Discovery catalog searches through a lot of our databases all at once, so you might not have to choose! It can be a good way to cast a wide net to see what is available. Learn some tips on how to search it here

However, you might get different results if you search a database directly, even though you could theoretically find the same materials in the catalog, depending on your search string and limiters, because each database has different defaults and different filters. Databases are a lot like cars, once you know how to use one, you can probably navigate your way through all the others. But each database has its own interface and modes of retrieving. Each shows results a bit differently, depending on a number of factors. So it never hurts to try multiple places just to make sure!


There are pros and cons to searching both. 


It is important to state that Discovery does NOT search through all of our databases. Some just simply do not integrate well with the catalog, like ArtStor (which is an image-based resource)

On the other hand, if only searching a databases like EBSCOhost's Academic Search Premier, for example, you might be limiting yourself from seeing what the other databases offer. It can really only tell you what is in that specific database, not, say, what is in Gale's Academic OneFile database. Discovery, however, pulls from both at the same time. 

Only searching in one of the library databases will keep you from seeing results that include our print and physical collections (as well as what's in our other databases). So, you won't see DVD or print book options, though you might see ebooks results (in full or broken up by section, such as by chapters) in a particular database. Discovery will show you a mix of online and print/physical materials available. But if you don't need a print book, that might not be an issue! 

Another consideration is interlibrary loan. The Discovery catalog will show you items (unless you filter them out) that we don't hold in our library, but could possibly get via interlibrary loan (ILL). This is in contrast to the databases. If a database has indexing for material but does not offer fulltext access, it might direct you to the catalog to search there to see if it's held in another one of our databases. If you can find the record for the material in Discovery and we don't end up having access, Discovery will prompt you to put in an ILL request. The ILL request process is streamlined into the catalog. 


The Discovery catalog is definitely the place to discover items in our physical collection (ie print books and DVDs)


Some tips and considerations:

The Discovery catalog does great with an ISBN in the search bar if looking for a particular book. It also does really well with a title search (see this example). You can play around with built-in search limiters in the Advanced Search, so you don't even have to remember the search string shortcuts like "ti:" or "su:" or "au" (for title, subject, or author) that you may have heard about. 

If using Google Scholar, it is great to use the Discovery catalog in conjunction with it and your online searching in general. If you run into a paywall, copying and pasting the title, sometimes using quotation marks around it (here's an example), can get you to free access options (either through Discovery showing you what database we have that offers access to that particular article or through offering the ILL option). 


Why Discovery and not just the "Books" link on the Library website


A little case study for why you would want to search Discovery directly, rather than the Find > Books  or Find > Videos option links on the library homepage is this: What if you wanted to see if the library had both the film AND the book the film is based on of The Kite Runner in one search? Discovery is more likely to show you that we hold both in one step

So, we hope this gives a glimpse for under what scenarios you would want to use the Discovery catalog and under what scenarios you would want to search a database directly!