Personal website or blog?

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Can you tell anything from the address about whether the site is personal? Do you see the word “blogspot” in the URL?

Does the blog contain a personal name or any information about the author? For example: http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com.

Public “ask us” site?

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These are essentially a collection of opinions, typically without the names or credentials of people posting responses.

In order for a site to be credible enough for any type of academic project, you need to identify the author or the organization who is claiming ownership of the writing. 

News article or magazine article?

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Do you recognize the title as a newspaper or magazine? To get from an individual article back to the main site, try deleting everything in the web address after the .com (i.e. http://seattlepi.com).

Does the banner across the top of the site list typical newspaper sections such as Local, U.S. or National, World, Business, Sports, Arts & Entertainment, and/or Classifieds?

Is there a prominent date and/or issue number?

Educational site?

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Does the first section of the web address end in .edu. for example: http://kellogg.nd.edu/publications/workingpapers/WPS/335.pdf. However, that still covers a lot of ground.

The issue still comes back to "who did it?" Who is the author(s) and what are their credentials? Is it a student project, or a scholarly journal article?

Look for an About page, or something indicating an explanation of the content.

Company site / Sales site?

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Is the site representing some type of web business or corporation? Typically the web address will end in .com.

What is the purpose of a company website? Typically to:

a. sell something,

b. convince you to invest in the company,

c. convince people to work for the company.

Therefore, you need to verify the information. If the company makes a claim, do they provide ways to verify the information?

If the issue is controversial or something the company has been criticized for in the past, you definitely need to verify the information. Are you getting the whole story from the company’s website?

Government report/article/statistics?

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Government reports and websites can be a great sources of information, and are typically highly reliable and non-partisan.

Look for .gov web address, such as http://www.census.gov or http://www.cdc.gov/.

These are good sources for statistics and reports. Also, most federal reports are available full-text on the web.

Scholarly article?

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Did you find a scholarly article?

Typically, scholarly articles are:

  • fairly long (at least 8-10 pages)
  • the authors are listed at the top the beginning of the article along with their university or research affiliation
  • there will be a list of citations at the end of the article (all the articles that authors used when they were creating their own theories and research).

Scholarly articles have been reviewed by experts in the field and the authors are experts, so these are usually highly reliable if they are relevant to your topic or argument.


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