Search versus Research

Researching A to FMany people want skills for finding factual information quickly and don’t readily know the distinctions between searching data versus researching data.

Search is defined as reading, looking at, or examining something carefully in order to find more details or something concealed.

Research is defined as the systematic investigation into existing or new knowledge.  It is used to establish or confirm facts, reaffirm the results of previous work, solve new or existing problems, support theorems, or develop new theories.  Gaining insight through research comes not from ‘search’ but ‘repeated search’ (which is re-search).


  • Uses one or more databases, search engines, or meta search sites
  • Limits scope of information to that available electronically
  • Commands software to seek out and retrieve data
  • Faster than conducting research
  • May lack completeness (the big picture, analogies, related information)
  • Serves select information needs (fact-finding, locating known items)


  • 1)  Applies a variety of techniques:
  • a)  Consulting finding aids (e.g., catalogs, known works, bibliographies, subject directories)
  • b)  Searching databases, search engines, or meta search sites
  • c)  Browsing
  • d)  Asking colleagues, friends, experts, or other people resources
  • 2)  Often requires consulting information available in various formats (e.g., online databases, print, Web pages, CD-   ROM, microforms) 
  • 3)  Systematic, diligent, creative, thorough
  • 4)  Time-consuming
  • 5)  Uses newly discovered information to focus or re-define the research
  • 6)  Serves all information needs (fact-finding, locating known items, topical, investigative)