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Why the Web Isn't Considered "Scholarly"
While the internet is full of interesting and handy information, most of the websites on it aren't necessarily what you should use as source material for a research assignment. Some problems with using websites found by searching Google include:
- Anyone can put anything on the internet, and it can be difficult to determine fact from fiction.
- No fact checkers or reviewers.
- Sources often aren’t included.
- The authors may be biased or have special interests.
- The author usually isn’t listed, and qualifications can be dubious.
(These go for Wikipedia too)
Standard Google Search
Here is an example of a basic search about the Great Depression. According to the search, there should be 208 million websites related to the topic...right? Not exactly. About 99.9999% of those 208 million websites will be of little use. Most websites will be unusable because of the problems listed above, or because they don't actually contain information about the search topic.
For example, the first three results include a public school district, the History Channel's website, and Wikipedia; none of which are considered scholarly enough for research material (but they are ok for general information purposes).
Visible vs. Invisible Web
The internet can be divided into two basic groups: the visible web and the invisible web.
The visible web (or surface web) includes sites you can find using general search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo.
The vast majority of the internet is “invisible,” or "deep." These include databases which require paid subscriptions and restricted sites, like secure government websites.
Think of the internet like an iceberg- only a tiny fraction is visible to the general public. The rest of it is inaccessible to the majority of users. (The "dark" web is considered part of the invisible web.)
If you need help finding scholarly information on the internet, stop by the Library Reference Desk, call us at 740-376-4543, or email a Reference Librarian at firstname.lastname@example.org.