Using Online Sources in a research paper: Pros and Cons

At least once in our life we were faced with the need to write a research paper. Some of us have to do it almost on a daily basis, but even being used to this kind of task we always have to decide what sources to use to back up our points or facts.

Today in the world of modern technology temptation to use internet as your main source is too hard to resist. But as in any other option this choice brings its own benefits and risks.

Pros: Easily Accessible

Writing a research paper sometimes requires an access to information at inconvenient times. Libraries and other sources of published works are not always available, while Internet can be accessed 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

Pros: Variety of New Information

Study results are more likely to be posted first on websites as well as new discoveries and accomplishments. It takes time to publish it in scientific or publicist journals. And if you use new information in the paper, you have a better chance of showing knowledge and understanding of the topic.

Online Sources

Pros: Availability of hard-to-find documents

There are some books, journals, newspapers and works which exist in a limited quantity. Happens, while hunting for those publications the only chance we get to access them is Internet.

Pros: Ability to conduct a little poll

In order to support or refute certain theory you can conduct a poll that will include responses from people all over the world, while it would be almost impossible to do it in such a short time in any other way.

Cons: Information is not systemized

Unfortunately there are no catalogs and trained “librarians” that can help us in a search for a certain topic and it may take a while to find necessary or new information.

Also some of the sources require subscription but the information kept there is not always helpful or useful. While time was already spent for filling out subscription forms.

Cons: Plagiarism

Chance to plagiarize or abuse authors’ rights are always high. Thoughts on the interested topic are sometimes already put down in the best possible form and it is hard to find another way to express them. The probability of being accused in plagiarism is high when using Internet as your main source simply because someone could have expressed its own point of view in the same words as you did.

Cons: Freedom of Speech

On the Internet every single human being can create own website, blog, etc. It leaves you with the chance of acquiring false or unconfirmed information, which in the long run affect the conclusions or the whole paper itself.


These are just the main points. It is up to every person to decide whether to use or not to use online databases as your source. Just remember a few simple precautions if you choose to use information from the Internet:

  • Double check the source, author or website itself. If it is not the first or main source, take time but reach the main one. It will give your paper more weight.
  • If there is no way to avoid copying some information, use a standard procedure of quoting. This way you will minimize the chance of plagiarism, while including the needed information.
  • Last but not least check your finished work for plagiarism by the simple program used by English teachers all over the USA. It will find possible similarities and give you a chance to fix your paper if the percentage is high, before handing in your work. But remember there is always a small percentage of plagiarism present in any paper, so it should worry you too much.
Using Online Sources in a research Paper: Pros and Cons

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