Research and Writing Resources
images of writers

Can I use the www for research?

That depends on the subject matter and nature of the writing and research assignment. Be sure to ask your professor.

Most IU History faculty would agree on the following:

  1. The web is not yet a substitute for our excellent library.  Your instructor would rather have you use a book or journal from the library than any randomly selected website.  Writing a paper based mainly on internet sources may not be acceptable.  So be safe:  use the library and, if using a website for a course writing assignment, consult with the professor first.
  2. Some online resources are excellent, but there are others that you need to be skeptical about.

What are some www resources I can safely use for my course work?   

The following sites have been scrutinized and reviewed by experts in myriad fields before they were printed and placed on the web, so you can rely on them without hesitation.

•  Online IU Libraries resources and electronic resources at other universities.  Check the course-specific website for those which are recommended for your J300/J400.

•  Websites sponsored by universities are usually reliable.  You know that the site comes from a university if it ends with the suffix “.edu.”

•  Government websites tend to be reliable, too.  These end in ".gov."  Website sponsored by non-profit organization can be used.  These have the suffix ".org" at the end of their web address.

What are some websites that I need to be skeptical about?

Given that anybody with Iinternet access can produce a webpage, we need to be careful when we choose to read these. Thus, any personal or commercial website should be carefully scrutinized.  Not all of these are bad, but you need to evaluate them before using them.  William K. Storey suggests the following when evaluating the quality of a website [1]:

•  Take note of the address, author, title, owner of the domain and date of publication.  This should help you evaluate the site but it's also necessary to have the information for proper citation if you use the site when you are writing.

•  Check if the website has also been published as a print source.  If that is the case, then it is likely that it is of a higher quality.  Printed materials tend to go through higher quality controls.

•  See if the information published in the website is available elsewhere and can be verified.

•  Check the tone of the website.  Storey suggests the following questions:  “Is it scholarly or is it ranting?  Does it present evidence that can be verified, or does it make claims that are unverifiable? Is it written by scholars whose names and affiliations you recognize, or is it written by people without reputation?” [2]

The criteria listed above may help to determine the reliability of an internet source.  However, this cannot become the sole criteria.  Again, it is best for you to ask the professor when in doubt about the use of an internet source before you actually write the paper.

See “Evaluating Web Sources” for more information.

[1] William Kelleher Storey, Writing History:  A Guide for Students 2 nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004) 10-1.

[2] Storey, Writing , 11.