When writing a paper and using sources from the Web, there are a few things you need to know. Keep the following tips in mind when citing or referencing an article from a Web site.
What are some possible consequences of using unreliable sites as sources?
The answer to this is pretty much common sense: if you decide to use a source that is not giving you good information, your project will not only be inaccurate, but it will also show a lack of critical thinking on your part.
Most educators these days will absolutely check the Web sites that you choose to include, and if these sites do not meet the minimum requirements of credibility, you might lose crucial points on an assignment (or even have to do it over again). Trustworthy sources that stand up to healthy criticism are essential.
When considering potential sources, whether they be on the Web or anywhere else, we have to really use our noggins! One of the best sources I’ve come across lately to help develop critical thinking has to be AusThink’s repository of a wide variety of critical thinking resources. Everything from argument mapping to Web page evaluation can be found here.
How do I know if a website is worth citing?
A website that provides credible, reliable, and verifiable information is worth citing. See How to Evaluate a Website for criteria you can use to make sure whether a particular site is worthy of a citation in a paper or project.
I’m a teacher. How do I get my students to look at sources more critically?
If you’re an educator, you might want to look at the wonderful Kathy Schrock’s Critical Evaluation Surveys. These are printable forms for students of all ages, from elementary to college, that can help them critically evaluate Web sites, blogs, and even podcasts.
Definitely worth a look if you’re teaching your students to have a more critical eye!
How can I tell if a website is truly credible?
Credibility is definitely important – in fact, Stanford University has devoted quite a bit of time to it with their research titled the Web Credibility Project. They’re doing some groundbreaking research on what constitutes real credibility on the Web; be sure to check it out.
Can the domain name of a website tell me if it’s credible?
Absolutely. Compare these two URLs:
There are a few clues here. First, any third-party Web addresses like the first one there typically hold less authority than others that come from self-hosted domains at .com, .net, or .org. The second URL is from an actual educational institution (the .edu tells you that right away), and therefore holds more perceived authority.
This is not always a fail-safe method, but for the most part, you can get an instant snapshot of how authoritative a source might be by looking at the domain.
What about citing Internet sources – how do I do it?
There are many resources that are popping up all over the Web to help with this least popular of research-oriented tasks; among the best are the Owl at Purdue’s Formatting and Style Guide. Zotero is a free Firefox extension that helps you to collect, manage, and even cite your research sources – you can even use it to take notes, tag and save searches, or store entire PDF files.
There are lots and lots of auto-citation sites as well (note: you’ll want to double-check your these auto-citations against your assigned style guide; they don’t always catch everything), such as the Citation Machine, CiteBite, which allows you to directly link to quotes on Web pages, and OttoBib, where you can simply enter in the books ISBN and receive an automatic citation – you can even choose from which school of thought you need it from, i.e., MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.