Many say that we are currently living in the modern world where everything that used to be manually done have been replaced by computers and the Internet. Figure 1 shows the latest statistics on the percentage of internet users worldwide in 2012. This just shows that everywhere in the world, the internet has become inherent to the people. If you need a recipe, consult Mr. Google. If you need the latest news, consult Mr. Google. If you need notes, consult Mr. Google. Almost everything we want to know today is available on the web. Just get connected to the internet, download a browser, type an address of a search engine then the topic you want and boom the browser will reply you with hundreds of pages containing your search. It now becomes your own judgment on which page will you use. Neil Gaiman is once quoted saying, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.” (GoodReads.com, 2013) So which do you prefer, utilize the internet for searching or the library.
Searching using the internet has several advantages but with it comes some disadvantages. Aside from being constantly updated and available 24/7, the internet is home for almost every kind of publications and is interactive unlike a library where access to research materials is limited. Different informative media like videos and poscast, pictures, journals and newspapers are also freely accessible on the internet. However, the internet the reliability of information found on the internet and how you arrive at the correct resource can jeopardize your research results unlike in libraries where information found are reviewed and well-publsihed.
In getting the most out of the internet, one must muster some search strategies to help you get the right information you are looking for or else you could be led to irrelevant information and get sidetracked. A search strategy is your plan of how to get information. Being specific on the search items by identifying the key concepts and providing possible alternative terms, listing down of possible web sources and thinking about the possible media type of what you are looking are good search strategies since at the start, you already know what you want. You can also further refine your search by providing specific dates or locations to narrow down the search result giving you chances of getting to the right resource right away. (Classzone, 2012)
Arriving at a useful resource does only need a strategy but search tools as well. These tools include search engines, subject directories, invisible web or databases and discussion groups. Generally, search engines can be defined as software that lets the user type in search terms then returns the webpages containing these terms usually through web browsers. A spider or crawler is by these search engines to keep an index of the searchable items so that it will not need to look for these sites everytime a search on the topic is made. The use of different search engines results to different search outcomes since they differ on size, content and search methodologies. A faster way of utilizing search engines is through the use of metasearch which utilizes software capable of searching the search engines. It’s like summarizing the top results of several search engines into a single result. (USC Beufort Library, 2013) Subject directories on the other hand, are websites like yahoo.com that lets you search a topic within the context of a broader topic. This is very helpful since you can be sure that the research results are relevant with what you are looking for. Web content that is not indexed by web browsers are referred to as the invisible web or database. These are usually protected collections of libraries which the search engines cannot penetrate. Academic journals and peer-reviewed researches are common examples of such. Sometimes, search engines are capable of peering into the abstracts of these databases but are unable to retrieved the full content since authorization or authentication that you are an authorized user is required. (Basu, 2010) Discussion groups are also good search resources as people with similar interests meet here.
After searching, it returned thousands of pages. How will you choose which page is reliable? It is important to evaluate the information contained in these pages. The types of websites with the most unreliable content are the “.com” since everyone can create their websites and published them on the net. (JohnHopkins University, 2013) This is due to the fact that almost everyone can create his or her own website in a “.com” website. It helps to find out the frequency of updates and the authors to determine if the information can be relied on. The usual reliable sources of information are those of government sites, organizational sites, networks and of course educational sites. Examples of evidences on the unreliability of some internet sites are news of death of someone when in fact he is still alive.
Information from the Internet may be freely obtained but we still have to be guided by the principles of ethical and legal use of these information. The most common crimes related to the use of the internet are those involving violations in intellectual property rights. This includes copyright infringements, the illegal use of trademarks and patents. An example of such is the unauthorized use of a copyrighted picture for personal purposes without the permission of the owner. For students, the most common way of violation of intellectual property rights involves plagiarism or the unauthorized usage of someone’s ideas or words like they are your own. This has become a big problem among schools for the past years and has already been referred to as an epidemic. This leads to the formulation of different programs trying to detect plagiarized materials submitted by students. (Scanlon, 2002) To avoid violating rules on plagiarism, keeping track of and citing of resources must be practiced. Figure 2 reflects an inforgraphics on how the internet has been coined as a copy-pasted world and reflects data on the increasing plagiarism instances. There are several ways of correctly acknowledging the source of an idea. Several applications are available online to help you keep track of resources like evernote, delicious and others available freely. Most browsers also have embedded bookmarking and history features that helps you track your researches. To properly cite resources, the most common formats used are the MLA, APA and Harvard.
It can’t be denied that the internet has changed how things used to be, however, it has also became a medium for leading a misinformed community as Roger Egbert said “Doing research on the Web is like using a library assembled piecemeal by pack rats and vandalized nightly.” (GoodReads, 2013)
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