Federated Searching is a technology which allows simultaneous search and retrieval of data from different databases and electronic resources, such as e-journals, subscription databases, electronic print collections, other digital repositories, and the Internet.
The technology allows a user to enter search terms using a single search interface. The search is then run in the associated databases, and the results are presented in a single, unified list.
Note: You may know it as multi-searching, metasearching, broadcast searching, integrated searching, portal searching, consolidated searching, distributed searching, or cross-database searching.
Meta-search engines, such as Metacrawler, Dogpile, etc. simultaneously search several individual search engines and their web page databases. The search is free. Federated searches, on the other hand, provide access to the contents of subscription databases. Thus, the scope of the search depends on the user's institution's investment in fee-based databases.
Advantages of Federated Searching:
Bear in mind that Federated Searching is by no means a magic bullet. For example, only simple Boolean commands can be employed when using it. In short: it is a great time saver, a good starting point, but not a substitute for in-depth searching. It is an emerging technology and its cababilities are growing as the vendors continuously update them. It has the potential to revolutionize online searching by making it vastly more powerful and user-friendly.
UIUC Library's Gateway employs Federated Searching. You can narrow the number of databases by clicking on tabs, or search them all simultaneously.
Here is the result of hte above search using all the databases. Note that in this configuration both the paid databases and the open web resources are searched.