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Choosing credible sources

As mentioned before, the quality of content on the internet is very variable, and much of it is unsuitable for use on an academic assignment. There are a number of criteria that you need to apply when deciding when to use content from the internet.

Authority

Who is responsible for the content of the website?

Is it an individual or an organisation?

If it is an organisation, is it one you trust? How independent is it?

The domain name will give you some information about the authority of the website: .ac and .edu are domain names for educational institutions, .gov is used for government agencies and .org for official organisations. Websites with these domain names are generally considered authoritative.

Audience

Who is the website aimed at? The general public? Schoolchildren? University staff and students?

Currency

How up-to-date is the content?

Well maintained websites should include information on the date the content was posted, but sometimes this information is just not available.

Accuracy

How accurate is the information given on webpages?

Is evidence used to support arguments? If so, are the sources of that evidence given clearly?

If possible it always a good idea to cross-check statistics by referring to other websites which provide similar information.

Viewpoint

How objectively is the information presented?

Do the authors of the content have a particular viewpoint that makes it difficult for them to be objective on particular issues. For example, in discussion on the use of animals in scientific experiments, the viewpoints of animal rights organisations and pharmaceutical companies are likely to be very different!

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This article is from the free online course:

An Intermediate Guide to Writing in English for University Study

University of Reading

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