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EMPOWER: Using the Web: Open Web vs. The Library

Information on the Web

There are two different approaches to finding information for your research project on the Web:

  • Using the Open Web:
    This would include using resources that are available openly on the Web to anyone.
     
  • Using the Library's Online Resources:
    Including database subscriptions, subject guides, full-text articles, and other resources found through your library's website.
     

There are benefits and drawbacks to using each approach, and they also share a lot of overlapping qualities.

The Open Web

The information you can find on the Web by using search engines and by typing a URL directly into your browser's address bar is information that is open to anyone who has access to the Web.

Strengths:

  • Contains very current information like stock prices and news stories
  • Includes information from professional organizations and blogs 
  • There are billions of web pages available
  • Useful for services such as job hunting, travel services, and shopping

Weaknesses:

  • Information may be inaccurate or biased because no one is reviewing the content
  • There is so much information available that it is hard to find what you are looking for
  • The information isn't organized

The Library Online

The Library's website is an ideal place to find information for your research because it was built with that purpose in mind! While anyone can browse through the website, only Edgewood students, faculty & staff have access to many paid scholarly resources.

Strengths:

  • The library pays for access to electronic databases, full-text journals, and ebooks 
  • Information has been carefully chosen and reviewed by librarians 
  • The information is organized

Weaknesses:

  • May not include the most current information on some topics
  • The amount of information may be limited for some topics

Library & Open Web Overlap

There can be some overlap between the library's online resources and things that can be found openly on the Web. Here are a few examples:

  • Google Scholar, which is an electronic database similar to ones that the library pays for, is free and open to the public at https://scholar.google.com
  • A search engine may retrieve full-text articles that the library subscribes to (but if a search engines retrieves an article that requires a fee you should first check to see if you can obtain it through the library for free).
  • WorldCat is a library database that contains information about thousands of books and lists the libraries that own each one. This database is also free and open to the public at http://www.worldcat.org.
  • Wikipedia might be convenient for quick facts, but it isn't a reliable source of scholarly information. However, many Wikipedia articles do quote scholarly resources, so always go directly to the original source of the information.

venn diagram

Which is Best?

Both the online resources offered by the Library and the open information available on the Web may be useful for your research. Some professors prefer students to use only Library resources, and some research projects require information that cannot be found at the Library. You may prefer to use both and decided for yourself which is the best approach.

No matter what your approach, a librarian will always be able to help you navigate online resources.