Mysterious but Awesome Invisible Web_BibMe Blog

The Mysterious (but Awesome) Invisible Web

If you’ve done a research paper before (we bet you have) then you know there are a TON of different types of sources you can use to conduct research. This can make it difficult to zero in on relevant information. Using the same search term over and over again tends to just bring up the same old results.

But what if there was a side of the Internet that was somewhat hidden, yet contained valuable information on your topic? Good news: there is! It’s called the “Invisible Web,” and it’s not as scary as it sounds.

What is the Invisible Web?

The “invisible web” might sound like a mysterious weapon, or a book you have to read for class, but it’s actually much cooler than that. The term “invisible web” refers to sources, like databases, that search engines do not have direct access to, or cannot display results for.

For example, if you were to type in the word “cat” into Google, you would most likely see a list of pages from the visible web, such as Wikipedia, with information about cats. What you wouldn’t see, however, is the information about cats contained in databases.

Databases usually have curated content that is fairly credible and relevant to your research topic. However, you wouldn’t normally have access to or find this content via the visible web since databases generally block software “spiders,” employed by search engines, that search the web for page results. Tip: Teachers love it when you include databases in your works cited page or APA reference page.

How Can I Access the Invisible Web?

Don’t worry, the invisible web may be “hidden,” but it is not completely inaccessible! You can access information from databases by searching with very specific terms. Here are some of the best places to start:

For government sources:

This is the official web portal for the US government. It contains a wealth of information and lists of places to find sources such as historical government documents and photographs.

For topics in the humanities: Voice of the Shuttle

Originally a web project created by scholars at the University of California, this site is a concise guide to reliable sources in the humanities, such as Philosophy, Anthropology, and History,

For topics in the sciences: Web of Science

This subscription service provides direct access to research publications, and houses access to over 18,000 scientific journals.

Want more? Visit your local public library or school library website to see what databases they offer to their patrons. Many offer access to databases you’d otherwise have to pay for. If you have trouble finding or using databases, find a librarian to help you out—they’re the best!

Why Should I Use it for Writing Research Papers?

Using the invisible web for your research paper will help your work stand out. While it is pretty simple to type in a keyword into a search engine, it shows initiative when you expand your search to other sources. You will also reduce the risk of repeating the same references as your classmates!


Easily cite sources as you research, then scan your paper for errors with BibMe Plus’s grammar and plagiarism checker. Spot potential errors, find quotes that may need to be cited, and start building a stronger paper today!