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ASIA 1111 – Hollywood Hanoi: Narrating the Vietnam War - Tran: Google Is Different

Google and Library Search Engines

Today, most users search Acorn and other library databases (including film databases and the Television News Archive) the same way they search Google. Sometimes this works satisfactorily; sometimes it doesn't. The reason?  Many of these library resources don't work like Google.  Understanding the differences between how library resources work and how Google works will make you more effective users of all of these search engines.


  • returns search results using an algorithm that combines popularity and relevancy (i.e., Google gives you the "best" results first);
  • does keyword searches;
  • searches the full text of the documents it includes in its search results.

Many library resources, like Acorn (the library catalog), film databases, and the TV News Archive

  • don't rank results by relevancy;
  • do keyword searches, but also use standardized ways (like subject headings and call numbers) to help you find things that may be described in a variety of ways; and
  • frequently do not search the full text of the items (though there are, of course, library resources that do, like JSTOR and ProQuest).

Some examples of how subject headings (used by Acorn) differ from the keywords you might immediately think of when you're looking for something:

  • The subject heading for racism in the United States is racism -- United States.
  • The subject heading for moonshine is distilling, illicit.
  • The subject heading for movies or films is motion pictures.
  • The subject heading for books about motion pictures about the Vietnam War is Vietnam War, 1961-1975-- motion pictures and the war.

Because subject headings in Acorn are links, we can use them to get all the items in our library with a particular subject heading.

Subject headings aren't perfect, but they can be helpful in getting results that are more relevant to your search.