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Online Library Versus Internet for Research: Which is Best?

Image: Women using search bar on web browser - Online Library Versus Internet for Research: Which is Best?

When conducting research for a school project, it can be difficult to determine whether it is most appropriate to use the AIU Online library or a regular Internet search. Both are valuable sources of information, so to determine which source would be better to investigate, the first step is to look at the topic you’re researching.

Using the Internet for Research

The Internet contains a wealth of information, and for certain resources such as court cases and statistics, it may be the most appropriate place to look. Of course, there are also great resources from reliable news websites, educational institutions, government agencies, and so on. However, when researching on the Internet, it is very important to check the source for credibility. For example, is an author listed? Does the author give credentials that show them to be an expert on the topic? Anyone can create a website, so it’s important to consider these factors when choosing a resource to use for an assignment.


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Another disadvantage to Internet research is that the resources can be highly disorganized. Search engine optimization is an entire area of marketing dedicated to affecting a search engine’s results to make specific web pages more visible. Alternatively, companies can just pay a search engine to have their results come up at the top of the results in the inconspicuous “Advertisements” sections, which inexperienced users may take for genuine search results.

When to Use the Online Library for Research

Alternatively, the Web Resources section of the AIU Online library contains websites that have been compiled and reviewed by the librarians. The resources are relevant to the curriculum and safe to use for college-level research, so this area can give a good start for anyone interested in doing Internet research on a topic.

Library research also is different in that it provides access to materials such as books, newspapers and journals that are not freely available on the Internet. These types of resources are edited and evaluated prior to publication, just like print books and articles, so that can indicate a higher quality of content. Additionally, the AIU library collections are chosen specifically to support the AIU curriculum, and the materials within it are organized in a way that makes it easy to find relevant results using keywords.


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Library databases can be accessed through the e-Resources page of the library in the AIU Virtual Campus. Some databases are focused on a specific subject, like Business, Criminal Justice, or Healthcare. Other databases have just one type of resource, like eBooks or dictionaries and encyclopedias. Library users can search multiple databases simultaneously using the box at the top of the page, or they can access any of the individual collections in the Virtual Campus.

For students interested in learning more about the differences between library and Internet research, please keep an eye out for a class on this topic during break weeks in 2014. Scheduling information will be posted in the library announcements. If you have questions or wish to talk to a librarian in the meantime, just email librarian@aiuonline.edu.

Don't forget:
Classes start July 18!


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