MODULE 6: The WWW and Other Sources of Information:
Section 2 of 4, INTERNET BASICS, page 2 of 2.


What do instructors and others mean when they talk about things "from the Internet" or "on the WWW"?

Are the Library databases on the Internet—they are online, aren't they?

When an instructor says they don't want things "off the Internet," they usually mean they don't want something from a Web site—something the student used a search engine to find. The critical thing is for the student to ask the instructor exactly what he or she means, or, from the instructor's standpoint, to make it clear to the student what they mean.

Ask questions, or make statements such as:

A key concept, a very key concept: Databases versus the Internet.

While the Library databases are accessed using the Internet, the content itself (the books, articles, audio files, company data, etc.) should not be regarded as being "on the Internet."

Here's why.

The statement "on the Internet," is generally interpreted to mean that something can be openly accessed by anyone surfing the Web.

  • Most databases are not open-access; they need to be logged into and then searched. In fact...

    The fact that TROY's databases are online does not change the nature of the material they provide (and that's what this discussion is really about); it only makes accessing them more convenient. Databases make traditional research materials easier to get to.

    TROY's databases just happen to be online—available via the Internet, but that is not how all databases work. Many databases, particularly in the past, were not online. They took a physical form (such as a CD ROM) or were loaded on computers that could be accessed only locally.

Saying something is "on the Internet" has the connotation that it has an Internet address, a URL, by which it can be readily accessed.

  • Without getting technical, databases don't work like that.

When people think "from the Web," they think that the origins of the information (who created the information, how, when, and why) could be anything. And that is true ... the origins of most information on the Internet could be anything. Furthermore, even if information on the Internet does have a stated author, date, etc., those statements may not be true.

  • With databases, the origins of one hundred percent of the material are known. Not every aspect of every piece of information, but always some highly reliable data about the information, e.g., where it came from and when.

This is an important issue, so let's think about it another way.

For the most part, the information in databases is available using the Internet (as a method of retrieval), but was originally published in traditional, print books and journals.

If you had a photocopy of a print journal article, would you say that it was "from the photocopier?" No, that would be silly. The information is from a journal. How about if you had copied the article using a computer scanner and then read the article on a computer or printed a copy. Would the article be "on the scanner?" No. Likewise, if you had typed the article, word for word, you would not call it a keyboard article, it would still be a journal article.

Going back to the telephone analogy, when you call a friend on the telephone, they are not really "on the phone;" they are flesh and blood—the same as if they were right next to you. The phone lets you hear at a distance. In the same way, the databases allow you to see the text of a traditionally published book or article just as if you had the printed material in front of you.


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