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Evaluating Research: Library vs. Internet

What Type of Information are You Looking For?

Selecting a library database vs. the internet depends on the type of information you need to find.  If you want some quick background information, Wikipedia is fast and easy, it is a great source for background information, and to lead you to citations, but it is not the source you want to base a paper on.  For many assignments you will use a range of materials, books, journal articles, newspapers, archival sources, and websites. 

WHY? Rationale for Evaluating What You Find on the Web

Information on the web is abundant, and anyone can put it there. You can find "proof" of any belief system you can imagine.  If you are using a website as a source in your paper or project, you need to think critically about where that information is coming from.

You don't want to base your paper off a biased opinion or cite a website that's simply a mask for advertising. 

Instead, you want to find credible, up-to-date, relevant information that's written by an expert or an authority on the topic, whose claims are based on fact and supported by evidence. 

To learn how to separate the good information from the not-so-good or downright bad information that you might come across on-line, review the next tab and use the C.R.A.A.P. Test to evaluate a website.


 Fitz & Pirillo. (2006).  Image: The Whole Internet Truth

Considerations About the Web

Not Everything is on the Internet

The web contains at least over a billion web pages.  Even with that amount of information, only 8% of all scholarly journals are on the web.  Even though the information is FREE on the Internet, journal information is sometimes not. You have to pay.

The Needle (Your Search) in the Haystack (the Web)

The World Wide Web is a vast uncatalogued library.  Whatever search engine you use, you are not searching the entire web.  Unbelievable yes, but websites are not all websites are updated frequently, nor daily, weekly or even monthly.  Sometimes searches can be a huge waste of time because you cannot find relevant information for your paper.

Quality Control Does Not Exist

The Internet is not going away, and will continue to grow, but in addition to all of the scientific, medical, and historical (if accurate) information that is on the web, a lot of it is junk and inferior to what you can find in a library database.  Anyone can publish a website.

Sources on the Internet are Harder to Identify

Yes, full-text articles can be found on the web, but sometimes they are missing information you need for your own research, such as: footnotes, tables, graphs and formulae.  It is also sometimes difficult to tell who is the author of a site.  In a library journal, you will have the exact location of your information cited. Showing that exact location in your citation is required.  See Stonehill’s Citation Guide.  Information on the web can change or disappear overnight, information in a database cannot.  See also Stonehill’s Academic Integrity Policy on why you should be citing your sources.

Library On-Line Resources are Available 24/7

Online databases can be accessed 24 hours a day 7 days a week from the library’s webpage. These databases are in the library’s collection and can be accessed on campus and remotely with your Student ID. This is not to be confused with searching the Internet.

For a complete list of Library Databases click here.

Tuition and Fees Pay for Library Use

Library resources are paid for with your tuition and fees, so take advantage of it.  Libraries provide free access to scholarly books, journals, newspapers, encyclopedias, and other print reference sources.  A lot of information on the Internet is FREE, except scholarly materials.  A paid subscription is required to access.

Trained Professionals are Available for Assistance

Knowledgeable and friendly librarians are available to assist with locating information in person, chat, e-mail or telephone. Request assistance at the beginning of your research and spare yourself valuable time spent on the Internet.

E-Books are Available

E-books are full-text and searchable. Text can be searched automatically, and cross-referenced using hyperlinks.  Dictionaries, reference works, and some textbooks, benefit from search and cross-reference capabilities.  Content is available 24/7.  Please visit Stonehill’s Catalog.

The Internet Has Fewer Archival Materials

The Internet is actually not that old.  The library has older materials than the Internet, including Archived materials.  You would be pressed to find information that is older than 10-15 years old.  The Internet provides more timely information because it is changing constantly.  If students are interested in archived materials, which can be great primary sources, please see Archives at Stonehill.

Libraries vs. the Internet

The Web is not a universal library.  The library is a wealth of knowledge and information.  Stonehill provides access to that knowledge and information.

 Adapted from the article:  Herring, Mark. (2001, April). 10 Reasons Why the Internet Is No Substitute for a Library.  American Libraries. p. 76-78.  Tennessee State University Library Information Literacy Information.


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