Users locate information online using a search engine (such as Google or Bing), which they can view using a browser (such as Firefox, Chrome, or Internet Explorer. Users enter descriptive words into a search field, and the search engine uses an algorithm to match the words to content online, and then rank that content for the user.
The open internet contains information that can be seen by search engines and accessed for free by a user. There are also many online resources that require permission or payment to access, this is done for a number of reasons, for example: to protect privacy or intellectual property. Not all information is available online, and not all online information is free.
Websites contain all kinds of information, intended for all kinds of audiences. Some of it may be appropriate for college research, some if it may not be. There is no authority that governs what content can and can't be placed online, so when using the internet for research, it is up to the user to verify that the information they're using is reliable and appropriate. Librarians refer to the process of finding and evaluating information as "information literacy". Ask a librarian if you have questions about using the open internet for college research.