It is difficult to imagine what life was like before widespread internet access. It has only been 20 years since the explosion of the World Wide Web, but in those two decades countless aspects of daily life have been transformed drastically and irreversibly.
Out of all of the things that have changed, one of the facets of life that has changed most dramatically is the process of research. Anybody who was a student at any time before 1993 or so will attest to the wholly different experience that research used to entail. This is just a brief summary of what academic research was like in the “olden days”:
Usually the research process began at the library. Although campus libraries are still commonly used for things like research and studying, in these days you usually had to go to the library. That is, if the library even had the materials that you needed. You had to do some degree of research before your research even began in proper.
Finding the correct books was one of the first challenges when researching for a paper or other project, and one of the biggest. For decades, you had to rely on the library’s card catalog. Starting in the late 1980s, more advanced libraries began to computerize their catalogs, but you still started with the materials at the library. If you were lucky, you could find one or more reputable books and/or periodicals with useful, relevant information.
If you could not find what you were looking for at the campus library, then you would try your luck at the local public library. Searching was a fairly, slow painstaking process. If you struck gold, there would be a competent librarian willing to help you out and expedite the research process. Of course, this was not always the case.
Bigger libraries would often have historical documents such as newspapers stored on microfilm or microfiche, and going through these documents was almost always a painstaking process of going through seemingly endless quantities of material before finding something useful for your assignment.
These were just some of the hardships necessary when properly researching for a term paper or similar process. Then, more quickly than anybody could have expected everything changed. Consumer internet access existed before the early 1990s, but with the release of the first widely used web browser in 1993, and the subsequent upsurge in internet service providers. something began which can be modestly described as a revolution.
In the years since then the worlds of commerce, media and most importantly information changed. For casual information seekers, internet service providers deliver a world of data. For academic researchers, internet service providers are the key to a massive selection of reliable information databases – packed with useful research material on any subject imaginable. It is now possible to research a term paper without leaving your room. All it takes is quality internet service.