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This article is about using the Internet for research; for the field of research about the Internet, see Internet studies.</span></div>

Internet research is the practice of using the Internet, especially the World Wide Web, for research. To the extent that the Internet is widely and readily accessible to hundreds of millions of people in many parts of the world, it can provide practically instant information on most topics, and is having a profound impact on the way in which ideas are formed and knowledge is created.

Research is a broad term. Here, it is used to mean "looking something up (on the Web)". It includes any activity where a topic is identified, and an effort is made to actively gather information for the purpose of furthering understanding. Common applications of Internet research include personal research on a particular subject (something mentioned on the news, a health problem, etc), students doing research for academic projects and papers, and journalists and other writers researching stories. It should be distinguished from scientific research - research following a defined and rigorous process - that is carried out on the Internet, also from straightforward finding of specific info, like locating a name or phone number (and it does not refer to, research about the Internet).

Compared to the Internet, print physically limits access to information. A book has to be identified, then actually obtained. On the Net, the Web can be searched, and typically hundreds or thousands of pages can be found with some relation to the topic, within seconds. In addition, email (including mailing lists), online discussion forums (aka message boards, BBS's), and other personal communication facilities (instant messaging, IRC, newsgroups, etc) can provide direct access to experts and other individuals with relevant interests and knowledge. However, difficulties perist in verifying a writer's credentials, and therefore the accuracy or pertinence of the information obtained -- see also the article Criticism of Wikipedia and its section Difficulty of fact-checking.

It should be noted that thousands of books and other print publications have been made available online that would be extremely difficult to locate otherwise, including out-of-print books, and classic literature and textbooks that would be much less accessible in their printed form.

Credibility Edit

While the Internet contains a virtually-unlimited wealth of information not found in traditional resources, this abundance also may hinder academic research. Anyone can make a website for little or no cost and publish to the world. This bypasses the usual publishing channels and allows opinions to be expressed which may not be credible. Traditional sources may be considered more authoritative on the whole by some for this reason. On the other hand, this widespread publishing ability gives nearly-immediate access to the myriad views of both the average person and the professional world without the limited scope or bias which may be found in books and newscasts.

In general, a major way to find whether an online source is credible is to determine how popular and authoritative the source is. If the site has a well-respected offline counterpart such as the New York Times or CBS, the site will be as credible as the original. For websites and authors which have little popularity, one must consider the credentials of the source -- if those are available and valid. Even though a website may be written in a professional or academic manner, the lack of a central body to determine its credibility may be a prohibitive factor for serious research.

Ethics Edit

Internet research ethics is becoming more important now that Institutional Research Boards (IRBs) are having to approve research in Universities.

Broadly speaking, there are the following ethical approaches:

  • Consequentialist (or utilitarian) ethics.
  • Deontological ethics.
  • Ethics of care.
  • Virtue ethics.
  • Open source ethics.

See also Edit


References Edit

  • Anscombe, G. E. M. (1958). Modern Moral Philosophy. Philosophy, 33.
  • AoIR. (2001). Ethics Working Committee: Preliminary Report for Ethics, from
  • Berry, D. M. (2004). Internet Research: Privacy, Ethics and Alienation - An Open Source Approach. The Journal of Internet Research, 14(4).
  • Boehlefeld, S. (1996). Doing the Right Thing: Ethical Cyber Research. The Information Society, 12(2)(2).
  • Ess, C. (2001). Internet Research Ethics, from
  • Eysenbach G, Till JE. Ethical issues in qualitative research on internet communities. BMJ 2001; 323: 1103–1105.Free Full Text
  • Jones, S. (1999). Doing Internet Research: Critical Issues and Methods for Examining the Net. London: Sage.
  • King, S., A. (1996). Researching Internet Communities: Proposed Ethical Guidelines for the Reporting of Results. The Information Society, 12(2)(2).
  • Reips, Ulf-Dietrich & Bosnjak,M. (eds.). (2001). Dimensions of Internet Science. Lengerich: Pabst.


  • Birnbaum, M. H. (ed.). (2000). Psychological experiments on the internet.New York: Academic Press.

External Links Edit

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