When looking through websites it can be tricky to decide whether or not the information you see is appropriate for your research assignment.  You can pretty much use any type of information when you’re researching, but what you use depends on your assignment, audience, and argument.  For example, a student in Communications studying social media might reference websites and services like Twitter or Tumblr. However, depending on the context, citing something like Twitter may not be appropriate for another assignment. 

So, how can you tell if something on a website is academic research?  

1.  Source of Information

  • Sites ending in .gov or .edu are generally more trustworthy than most, since they come from governmental or academic organizations that often sponsor research.

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2.  Bias

  • Can you tell why this information was created?
  • For example, The New York Times is a well-known and respected news source. Like most other news sources, it also includes editorials, blogs, and opinion pieces, which can be more biased than other types of articles or information.

3. Accuracy

  • Can you tell where the author or source got their information?
  • Look at the sources quoted within a page and ask yourself whether or not the sources are well-known, trusted, and from people with expertise in a discipline or topic.

Depending on your research project, some websites and sources won’t be appropriate.  However, looking at where information is coming from, what biases might be associated, and how accurate the information is can help you appropriately evaluate and incorporate websites into your research.


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