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ENGL 102 - English Composition II - Schmidt

Web Sources

Now that you have quality keywords, you can start searching for sources! A place a lot of students like to start is the internet. While you can certainly use your keywords to search here, be careful and make sure you are looking for sources that are authoritative, accurate, objective, and current. 

Evaluating Web Sources

Video Transcript The information you find online comes from a variety of sources with a variety of purposes and intentions. As a college student, you will be searching for information that matches your needs. An authoritative source is one where it is clear who is responsible for the information and where they get that information. The authoring entity, whether an individual, group of individuals, or an organization, is sufficiently qualified to provide accurate information. An accurate source is one that presents information that is based on verifiable facts, meaning that you can easily determine something to be true. Anyone can publish something to the web, and their reason to do so can range from wanting to share their knowledge to deliberately providing misinformation. Often websites are made up of multiple types of information. A source that is aimed toward advertising a product can also be a source of accurate information about that product. Therefore you have to look at a source both as a whole and as a sum of its parts to determine whether a site is objective. An objective site aims to provide you with minimally biased, fair, balanced, and reasonable information. Finally, the time something is published, or currency, of a page, is another important criteria to consider. Often sites will provide a date and possibly a time when something was posted, revised, or a copyright year. You will also need to determine for yourself if the publication time of the information matches your needs. Let’s go through an example together. I’m doing research for my paper about the different types of neurotransmitters. I find this article from January of 2020 is titled “The Role of Neurotransmitters” on medium.com is written by Alexander Neumeister. Right away we can easily identify when the information was published. It gives a simple, easy definition of what the . What we can’t tell as easily is the authority and accuracy of the information. Before I use this information in my paper, I want to know more about the author and publication. If I scroll down a little farther, I can see that Alexander Neumister has a doctoral degree and works as a neuroscientist and psychiatrist. I want to verify that through a google search. While my Google search confirms those qualifications, it also shows that he was charged with embezzlement and research misconduct and not allowed to practice medicine any longer. So why is his article on medium.com? If we go to the medium.com homepage, it states that everyone is welcome as it is a platform for independent publishing. So while there are plenty of perfectly reliable and acceptable people publishing on this site, there is a way for authors to make money from writing on this site, which sounds very appealing for someone who lost their job and has legal fees to pay off. I’m going to look for another source. I found this website from the Queensland Brain Institute. There’s not an individual author, and the page was last updated in November of 2017. The title of the page, “What are neurotransmitters?” is similar to the one from medium, and tells us essentially the same thing about the three types of neurotransmitters. However, if we look into the Brain Institute more deeply, we discover that they are a well-respected leader in brain research. Through this research, I was able to verify the accuracy of the information about the types of neurotransmitters, and while the second source is older, I am going to choose the Brain Institute source based on the reputation of the publishing institution. I hope this comparison helps you with your own research.

A Note about URLs

As a starting point for evaluating websites, one might use the part of the web address immediately after the "dot" (for example, .com) to try to determine the reliability of the information. While this can be good guidance, it is important to know who can use those types of websites.

This table provides some common URL endings, and who can use them
URL end Category Can be used by
.com Unrestricted Anyone can create a .com website, it does not have to be a business.
.edu Sponsored People affiliated with an accredited college, which may include faculty and students.
.gov Sponsored federal, state, or local governments within the United States
.org Unrestricted Anyone can create a .org website, it does not have to be a non-profit organization.