Which to use first?
      A quick guide for online research.

Free Web


Your Library's Online Resources
(aka "Invisible Web")

Designed to help pinpoint information for research and class assignments

Information chosen by libraries for relevance to curriculum, correlation to academic standards.


General. Quick and easy for small tasks.

Broad sweep of all information openly available online.




Quality, type and relevance of information



Search results are websites, ranked by relevancy determined by computer programs.

Unreliable for getting to deep archives, peer-reviewed or refereed content. Links to information that can be out of date and/or taken from sources unknown or open to question.

Note: same uncertainty holds true for Wikipedia-style encyclopedias; user-supplied content can be poorly sourced.

Google Scholar Searches can be done for more scholarly literature (newspapers, curriculum-relevant magazines and journal archives), but many are only available for a fee.

Search results are research solutions, ranked in order of relevance by professional researchers and subject experts.

Accurate. Reviewed and updated regularly.

Designed by librarians and end-users through advisory boards, interviews and focused research.

Access to full-text articles provided.

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Reflects partnership with thousands of publishers to ensure copyrighted newspaper, magazine and journal content is included in search results.







Organization, searching

High-value relevant information available on a specific topic.

Search by keyword, combination of keyword and subject, by date for most recent, relevant results.

Vast information pool of everything openly available on the Internet. May not search information stored in databases.

Provides keyword searching. May not have subject categories.

Research Aids

High quality finding aids. Structure and guided searches build research skills.

Features/functionality assists the research process (email capability, citation models), etc.

Remember, your librarian knows more than just books. They're experts in finding hidden information if you get stumped.

Not much support.

Paid placements and ads

None. Library funds subscriptions, and provides  access to students.

Ads and links are sought for profit can distract users from research task.

Bottom line

Available 24/7 from anywhere with intent access. Consistently reliable for quality, relevant, reviewed content. If used, can result in more time to develop knowledge and actually write your research paper or complete your course assignment.

Free. Inconsistentcan be good for quick questions, but for academic research, time can be wasted viewing irrelevant websites or judging incomplete, false or misleading information. If used for