Without a doubt, the path to completing pretty much any academic assignment will at some point bring you into contact with the internet. It is rare these days that course material itself is not found online, as are scholarly journals, books, and other reputable publications of academic work. However, the internet is also a great source of misinformation, and use-generated content of unknown source or accuracy. Most of all, it is not a way to replace your own thinking skills that will be required to plan, execute, and accomplish your academic
tasks. So as you ponder when to use the internet and when to avoid it, allow us to add a few logs to that fire.

Know which sites to use and which ones not to

No doubt your assignments will come with some guidelines and warnings about how to use the internet, including this point here. There are reputable academic sites, like Google Scholar, that offer free access to many academic journals. Other sites such as governments or well-known science organizations are also often acceptable. Many media outlets offer their resources online, as to many NGOs and international organizations like the UN. Generally speaking, all of these are acceptable in academic work, depending on specific purposes.

There are other sources of information online that may or may not be usable, depending on the specific assignment. These include blogs and magazines for example. However, unless you have specific permission, these are not advisable academic resources. If you are studying something that has to do with blogs or pop-culture then of course sources like this will likely be permitted, but it is important to seek explicit permission for these types, as they fall into a grey area. If you’re unsure, stick with the purely academic or professional ones mentioned above.

No substitute for using your own ideas

While the internet can be a good source of inspiration, in many academic programs you are expected to offer some of your own ideas. This doesn’t mean you have to come up with something totally original because that can sometimes be impossible, but it does mean that you need to plan your essays, know what you want to say and then find the right sources to help you. Many times people find a whole bunch of sources that they really like, and then end up trying to compose something from there. You need to know what your own plan is, and be selective in what you use to execute that.

No substitute for human resources

There is little doubt that if information is what you’re after, the internet has it, hopefully from a source you can use. However, when it comes to taking your own ideas or arguments, you need to plan the overview of your work, and then plug in the sources that you need. If you find yourself bogged down in the weeds, trying to sort out your ideas and how to best use your resources, probably the best thing you can do is talk to a person, like your instructor, teaching assistant, or at your local student learning centre, which most institutions have available.