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J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library

Welcome to the Van Pelt & Opie Library!


Can I just Google It?


Google is an amazing tool. However, just like you wouldn’t typically use a hammer to fix your laptop, it’s a tool best used for specific purposes. Google is often good at quick “look it up” style searches where the answer is a concrete fact. For example: What does H20 stand for? Where’s the closest ice cream shop? How many inches of snow did Houghton get last winter? (187.76”)

As you advance in your academic career, the information you need becomes more complex. The library offers search tools that dig into academic and scholarly works, data, archival material, and more.

Here are 5 reasons you should consider using the library’s search tools to support your projects, papers, and course work.

1. More (useful) Sources

The library's search tools will find fewer results than Google, but those found will often be of higher quality. If you've ever clicked past the first page of Google results, you probably saw blogs, strange gossip sites, and sales pages cluttering up your results. Google casts a wide net that isn't always deep. In contrast the library's basic search tool pulls results from academic journals, reports, news outlets, data sets, and books. You still need to review these sources for credibility and relevance to your topic, but a lot of the junk you might have caught in a Google search isn't there. Click to the second page!

2. Filtering Options

Searching for academic sources is tricky because researchers often don't write the way you speak in your day to day life. Fortunately, the library's search tool provides many modification options to help you narrow your results.  Filter by subject, date, source type, peer review (did an expert review this source? More info on peer review), and discipline.

3. Skip the Paywalls

The library subscribes to thousands of resources on your behalf! Take advantage of these.

screenshot of available online content

When you're on campus, most resources will automatically recognize you as a subscriber. Off-campus, you will be asked to log in with your ISO username and password. Once you do this, you can access all of our materials from home!

screenshot off campus login page

4. Interlibrary Loan

If you find an article, book, or chapter that you want to read but we don't have access to via our subscriptions or collection, we can often get it for you from another library. This includes fiction and leisure reading! Visit our Interlibrary Loan page for more info. 

screenshot request through ILL button

5. Results sorted by relevance (not $$)

Results found via the library's search tool are sorted by relevance according to your keyword. There isn't any sort of premium or paid content that is elevated over other content. If you want to explore very technical or targeted information, you can even use the Database A-Z page to jump to a specific database subscription. Many databases address the exact discipline you're exploring.

So, is Google Bad? And what about Google Scholar?

No! Google can be great for certain types of questions and information needs. There are also tricks you can use to bend Google to your will. Check out our Google Power Users guide!

Google Scholar draws results from academic sources and its coverage varies greatly by discipline. Some fields use it extensively while others find that the most relevant research is harder to locate in Scholar. Google Scholar can be connected to our library resources, which means you won't run into paywalls nearly as often (see the Google guide above). Like Google, Scholar lacks strong filtering options and its results ranking algorithm isn't always clear. 

All of these are tools in your toolbox - practice each so you know when each one will be most effective!