Example: Assignment 2: Information Ethics athenaegis


Remember, you may need to hunt around to find the information for the citation.

Various Authors.  A 2001 Update in the Janet Dailey/Nora Roberts Plagiarism Case. All about Romance:  the Back Fence for Lovers of Romance Novels.  May 1, 2001.  http://www.likesbooks.com/daileyupdate.html.   (This whole thing is a citation.)

Do you have to write as much as I do below?  No.  You do have to write enough to provide all the necessary information.  In my experience, that means a minimum of 4-5 sentences.

This source is a series of messages that originally came from the All about Romance Potpourri Message Board and that were collected on the 2001 Update in the Janet Dailey/Nora Roberts Plagiarism Case web page cited above.   The original message board is no longer available. (This is one of the problems with using non-academic web sources – they can disappear.  Academic websites can vanish, but it’s much less common.)  The case referred to was a copyright infringement case in which best-selling romance author Janet Dailey admitted to plagiarizing from the even better selling romance author Nora Roberts.  Dailey settled the case, with Roberts donating the settlement money to literacy and writers’ organizations.

I would probably not use this source for a paper since the original message board is no longer in existence – the page I cite is a copy.   I”m using it here for three reasons:  1.) the current site (likesbooks.com) owned the original message board.   2.  personal sources confirmed the copy was good & 3.  it’s a good example (see below). 

Reading the different messages, it is clear that the posters hold a variety of opinions as to whether Dailey’s plagiarism is really a bad thing..  One poster considered Dailey’s plagiarism/copyright infringement bad, but saw nothing wrong with copying music from less famous bands on the original Napster, even though that was copyright infringement too.

I think that what makes this source really valuable is that Nora Roberts, the writer who was plagiarized, posted.  Ms. Roberts points out that the plagiarism was not a single incident, but lasted more than seven years and involved 13 books.  She says that it was not a “victimless crime,”  and writes that she “would not wish this experience on anyone.”  Roberts states that there are moral  issues in addition to the legal/criminal issue of copyright infringement. (Roberts 30 April 2001)  I used only the last name and date in this note because the context of the paragraph makes it clear I’m referring to the web page cited above.  If I were doing a “real-life” parenthetical reference, I’d need to add information about the web page as well since her name doesn’t appear in the citation.

Note that I linked to Nora Robert’s post (above).  For many web uses, this is considered adequate – you are acknowledging that it’s not your work and referring back to the source.  For academic use (and best practice web use) you need to use a note (explanation in the text, footnote, endnote or parenthetical reference) to give specific credit for the quoted passages.  

 I’m using a parenthetical reference in this case.  Footnotes are at the bottom of a page, endnotes at the end of a paper (or book, etc.).  Since the note is to give credit for the quotes from Ms. Roberts’ posts, I used the date of her post and not the date of the web page.

I think this is a good example of plagiarism because it explains what it is, shows how people have differing views of the seriousness of  plagiarism and tells how being plagiarized affected the victim – in this case, Nora Roberts.



Leave a comment

Filed under Assignment 2, Assignment Examples, Information Ethics

Example: Assignment 1: Research Questions – athenaaegis

NOTE:  athenaaegis is my blog name for this class.


1. Topic:  I’m interested in researching Galla Placidia.

NOTE: you are not required to explain your topic;  however, I think your fellow students might find lengthier explanations interesting.  Galla Placidia had a very interesting life.  She was the daughter of Theodosius the Great, who was the last Roman emperor to rule a united empire.   She was taken hostage by the Visigoths and then married their king, Ataulf.  At his death, she was returned to her brother, Honorius, then Emperor of the Western Empire, and was married to one of his supporters, with whom she had two children.   When the second husband died, she fled to Constantinople and her nephew, Theodosius II, emperor or the eastern Roman empire, because her brother was “too fond” of her.  When Honorius died, Galla Placidia’s son, Valentinian III, received the title of Emperor of the West in his place and the family moved back to Italy.  Since Valentinian was a minor, Galla Placidia ruled the western Roman Empire for about 12 years as his regent (definition).  She continued to have  significant political influence until she died.

Shortly before Galla Placidia’s death in November of 450 CE,  her  daughter, Honoria, inadvertently saved Constantinople by aiming  Attila the Hun at Italy.  Honoria wrote Attila a letter asking him to get her out of a marriage she didn’t want.  She included her engagement ring in the letter.  Attila came to claim her and suggested that half of the western empire would make a good dowry.  Honoria was quickly married off to a senator and Valentinian disavowed the legitimacy of the offer.  Attila proceeded to ravage Italy anyway, using the letter as an excuse.  These actions did not endear Honoria to her brother, the emperor, and she only escaped execution due to her mother’s intercession.  Honoria disappears from the record a few years later.  Some scholars believe that Valentinian III had her executed  after their mother’s death.  (Want to know more about Galla Placidia?  The Wikipedia article is a good place to begin.)

2.  Core question:  What does Galla Placidia’s life tell us about the role of imperial women in the later Roman Empire?

Remember, your core question should be related to your topic, but be much more focused than the topic.

Why I’m interested in this aspect of the topic

I’m interested in this aspect of the topic because Galla Placidia was a part of many of the important events that took place during the twilight of the western empire.  She also exercised political power to a degree that was unusual  even for the daughter, sister, aunt, and mother of emperors.   If her son by the King of the Visigoths hadn’t died,  she and her husband might have founded a Romano-barbarian dynasty that perhaps could have prevented the fall of the western empire.  As it was, she ruled the Western Roman Empire for over ten yea

Your explanation should be related in some way to your core question.  Don’t tell me that you love Roman history, tell me why you’re interested in the assassination of Julius Caesar or the sewer system of the Indus Valley civilization (much more interesting than you might suspect), etc.

3.  Research Question:  I could use my core question, but more formal, academic language would be better since I need to find scholarly articles.

`How was Galla Placidia a role model for imperial women in the Later Roman Empire?

You will be able to tweak your topic as you begin researching, but you cannot make significant changes without my approval.  Not sure if a change is significant or not?  Convo me.

Keywords and key phrases:  “Galla Placidia”  “imperial women”  “role model”  life  “Later Roman Empire”

Pick your main keywords and key phrases directly from your research question.   

EXCEPTION:  if there is more than one way to say the same thing.  This usually applies to science, technology, health and some social science fields as opposed to history and the arts & humanities, but is possible for those fields as well.   For example, you could call the 1890s part of the Victorian era, the Progressive era or the Gilded Age, etc. depending on your specific topic.

Alternative keywords/phrases:  “royal women”  “Late Antiquity”  biography, “Byzantine Empire”

“Late Antiquity”  is broader than “Later Roman Empire,”  so you would use it only if “Later Roman Empire” was not finding the sources you needed.  “Byzantine Empire” is more specific than “Later Roman Empire.”  Byzantine is the name we use; the people who lived there called it the Roman Empire of the East.  Most of the imperial women come from the Byzantine, or Eastern, Empire, so it might be a useful term.

Always start with the keywords and phrases that are part of your research question.  You can add others as you need to.  If you find yourself needing to add a lot of other keywords/phrases, then you probably need to rewrite the research question.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Primary Sources

Primary sources in most subject areas  are nice and straightforward.  You do a study or run an experiment then you write an article or sometimes a book.  An article or book based on research that the author or authors did is a primary source in the sciences, health sciences, sociology & psychology, and professional fields such as education and business.

Things are a bit more complicated in history, in large part because the definition of primary source is a bit of a moving target. For example, sources accepted as primary in ancient history are not acceptable in more modern historical fields.   Despite the difficulty of determining what is and isn’t a primary source, it’s absolutely necessary that you start learning to recognize them when you see them because primary sources are the basic building blocks of scholarly research.  In this reading, we’ll look at primary sources for the ancient world and how to find them;  we’ll also look at finding primary sources for more recent periods of history.

A quick review:

In the reading on Information Types and Formats, we’ll look at three important categories of information:

  • Sources classified by audience (scholarly, popular & trade)
  • Sources classified by closeness (primary and secondary)
  • Sources classified by quality measure.
The reading on Information Types and Formats defines primary sources as those that are closest to an original event, an  original time period, original research or an original idea.

 Common primary sources for history include:

  • Journals, diaries, letters
  • Speeches
  • Interviews/oral histories
  • Memoirs/autobiographies
  • Statistics
  • Inscriptions

Primary sources may also include:

  • Photographs & video recordings in various formats (including YouTube)
  • Audio recordings in various formats
  • Objects or artifacts:  art, tools, clothing, roads, buildings, houses, pottery, books & manuscripts
  • Some government publications

In some cases, you can use sources such as Twitter or newspapers or blogs as well as other  popular sources like magazines as evidence for what people were talking/thinking/reading about during the time in question.

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Advertisements
  • Maps
  • Twitter
  • Blogs
  • Facebook
  • Fiction

Primary sources in ancient history

Historians studying medieval through modern periods often wonder at material considered primary sources by ancient historians.  This has to do with the survival (or not) of the sources.

Example:  Herodotus, often called the father of history, wrote a work called The Histories in which he looked at the roots of the Greco-Persian wars.  Herodotus was born about the time the wars were ending (c. 480 BCE).   The Histories are considered a primary source because he did interviews and talked with people who were there.  Most of The Histories has survived.  However, while there are fragments that date to the 1st century C.E., the earliest extant (= surviving), mostly complete, manuscript is from the 10th century C.E.  This is true of most Greek sources.  The major exception is the New Testament:  there are almost complete manuscripts dating to about the late fourth to early 5th century with fragments dating back to the 1st century C.E.  So, even though Herodotus used  primary sources to write his Histories, it’s certainly possible people added or subtracted information in the 1,400 years or so between his death and the oldest surviving manuscript.

NOTE:  a manuscript is any document that is handwritten as opposed to printed.

Because Latin was used by the western church, the manuscript copies of  primary sources for Roman history are often several hundred years earlier than sources in Greek.   Greek was used by the eastern church, but many earlier manuscripts were lost as the Byzantine Empire crumbled.  A number of important authors, such as Aristotle, were transmitted to the West by the Islamic Caliphate and its successor states.   In the past 25 years or so, some manuscripts have come to light in areas previously part of the Soviet bloc and in areas in the Mideast, such as the Monastery of St. Catherine’s in the Sinai. (Check out the very old Greek  New Testament that was discovered there:  http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/).

A second issue is that often the best source is a later source.  Many scholars consider Arrian the best source for information on Alexander the Great even though he wrote more than 400 years after Alexander’s death in 323 BCE.  Why is Arrian considered the best source?  The main reason is that we know Arrian had access to primary sources, such as writings by Alexander’s generals, that  didn’t survive.  The other reason is that Arrian had experience fighting as an officer in the Roman army.  The theory is that he would therefore have had  a better understanding of Alexander’s strategy  and tactics than writers who lacked his experience.  The oldest surviving text of Arrian’s work on Alexander, which was written in Greek,  dates to about the 11th century C.E.

Are there any “truly” primary sources in ancient history?  Yes.  If you mean written sources, there are numerous inscriptions.    The Assyrians left libraries full of baked clay tablets filled with cuneiform writing.  In Egypt, papyri survive from the time of the pharaohs through the time of the Roman Empire and later.  The Egyptian Pharaohs and nobles prepared tombs whose decoration often included inscriptions.  Many ancient civilizations left inscriptions and art done in stone.  We even have the ostraka (pot sherds)  the Athenians used when they voted to exile the famous admiral Themistocles, son of Neocles.  We get our word ostracize from this practice.  These are all primary sources in the strictest sense.

Ostraka used to exile Themistocles

By Giovanni Dall’Orto. (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Artifacts are important primary sources.  They’re especially important for groups like the Celts who didn’t leave much of a written record.  Artifacts can be tomb paintings, road systems, pottery, jewelry, clay tablets (the tablet itself, not just the writing), wall paintings, legionary campsites, buried cities like Pompeii and much more.

Primary sources in medieval to modern history

The closer you get to our times , the greater the number and variety of primary sources.   The internet has made it much, much easier to find and use primary sources, but you need to carefully evaluate primary sources found on the web to make sure the quality is acceptable.  You also need to know what, if any changes have been made to the sources.  Finally, for objects, you are looking at a two dimensional rendering of a three dimensional object.

Finding primary sources

Ancient History

You can use many of the methods listed below to find sources.  However, the easiest way to begin looking for primary sources in ancient history is to use an encyclopedia. If you just need one or two examples, Wikipedia is fine.  However, if you need more sources or you have been told not to use Wikipedia, check out one of our specialty encyclopedias, such as the Encyclopedia of Ancient History.  The library has access to  encyclopedias and other sources in most fields, online and in print.  To find the eresources,    go to  the library’s home page:  http://library.weber.edu.  Click on the  Article Databases icon (blue pancakes).  Click on  Subjects, then click on Reference.  Credo, The Cambridge Companions Online, and the Oxford Reference Online are all good general sources.  Credo  has basic sources in most fields.

Medieval to Modern History

Find government documents

Government documents are an excellent source of information from the Middle Ages on.  (They can also be useful in some ancient societies as well.)  While this discussion refers to the West, they also survive in the Middle East and Asia.  The further back you go, the more difficult they can be to find and access.  They also tend to be in Latin and other languages most students need to have translated.  You can find some links to translated sources in Wikipedia, but books on the topic are often a better choice for the best translations.

For U.S. government publications, check out the research guide at:   http://libguides.weber.edu/government.  You can also try a search engine.  Use regular Google, Bing, etc.

NOTE:  as a general rule, use Google, Bing and other general search engines to find primary sources for history.  Use Google Scholar to find  published articles and books that are primary sources.

Search for named sources

Use a search engine such as GoogleBing, Yahoo and DuckDuckGo.  This approach works best for specific documents with easy to search titles:

  • US Constitution
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Treaty of Versailles
  • Kyoto Protocol
  • Constitution of Athens (Aristotle)

 Find digital collections

Do NOT pay for access to sources until you’ve double checked with your professor and your subject librarian and have made ABSOLUTELY sure there is no free access AND you don’t have time to wait for Interlibrary Loan (usually 24-48 hours, Monday – Friday.)

Most digital collections of primary sources are available for free from libraries, state and private archives and museums.  There are also a growing number  of commercial groups digitizing information.  These groups range from  newspaper and magazine publishers to database companies that provide access to specific groups of resources, such as early American magazines.

Newspapers, such as the New York Times, often provide some free content, but expect you to pay for full access.   Many newspapers now allow people to buy temporary access that includes a  number of downloads.  Some papers, such as the New York Times, have special college rates for both short term and annual subscriptions.  Database companies charge for access.  With a little bit of work, you should be able to get most primary sources for free or at least for a low cost.  Work with your professor and subject librarian to find free access. NOTE:  As of May 1, the Provost’s office will be providing access to articles (no ads, etc.) from the New York Times, from 1851 – present.  Go to:  https://nytimesineducation.com/register/  NOTE:  As of the last time I checked, you will get a Connection is not private” warning.  To continue, click on “ADVANCED”  to the left of the  blue “Back to Safety” button.  You’ll get a paragraph explaining the problem (problem with security certificate, then a link to proceed.   Click the link and follow the directions.   YOU MUST USE YOUR MAIL.WEBER.EDU EMAIL ADDRESS TO SIGN UP.

A BRIEF ASIDE ON THE VALUE OF GETTING AN UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH GRANT – I’d like to encourage people to pursue undergraduate research grants.  History majors (and most other majors)  have had good luck getting travel money to research in archives and special collections that are not available online.  Getting a grant looks very good on your resume.  If you go to graduate school, it shows you know how to carry an academic research project to the end.  If you don’t go to graduate school, having a grant shows that you are a self starter who can plan a project and carry it out (plus, you convinced people to give you money.)  For more information, see:  http://www.weber.edu/OUR.  You can also ask me.

Looking for newspapers?   Chronicling America, from the Library of Congress, provides access to, or  information about, newspapers from 1690  through 1922.  Stewart Library has a subscription to Newspaper Archive, which covers U.S. and some international newspapers from the 18th century to the present.  Also check out the Digital Newspapers in the United States research guide.  This is an exhaustive list of digitized newspapers by state, and then county.

What’s so important about 1922/23?   You will see a lot of free publications that end in December 1922.  In the United States, material published before 1923 is no longer protected by copyright.  You still have to give credit, but you can use a large amount of information without getting permission.

WARNING:  Resources that are now in the public domain (either never or no longer protected by copyright) can have  more recent introductions, discussions, etc.  This newer information is copyrighted so you may only quote shorter amounts of the copyright portion.

Stewart Library has subscriptions to  several commercial databases that provide access to newspapers and magazines that date from the 1700s to the present day.  Go to the library’s website:  http://library.weber.edu, click on the blue pancakes icon, then click on  n News under the subject listing for newspapers.  For older magazines, go to “A” on the alphabetical listing and choose American Antiquarian Society (AAS) Historical Periodicals Collection.  JSTOR will have articles from magazines and journals dating back to 1665 (Philosophical Transactions, which was & is a science journal.  Science was then mostly called natural philosophy.) 


The easiest way to find a digital collection is to ask someone.  Professors usually know the digital collections in their subject area.  Librarians either know of, or know how to find, digital collections in many areas.

The next easiest way to find a digital collection is to use a search engine such as Google.

You may search by  subject, location or both.


digital newspaper  collections (pretty bad)

digital newspapers California (better)

digital newspapers Sacramento CA (best)

Watch out for commercial sites that charge for information that government and educational sites provide for free.  Never pay money without checking with a professor or librarian first.

To limit sites to educational, government or organizations, use a domain name limit.  A domain name is:  .edu (education), .org (organization), .gov (government), .com (commercial), .uk (United Kingdom), etc.

domain  search:

     jazz digital collections site:edu  (you could also try site:gov or site:org – you can stack domains, but I think it works best to search each separately.)

If you know a specific site has information, you’re not just sure where, you can narrow the domain search:

     Eurodocs site:byu.edu

Use OneSearch

Do a search and then limit to type of content, such as Archival Material

Use the Include results from outside your library’s collection  search to look for archival material beyond Weber State.

Find specialized local collections

You can often use a search engine to find specialized local collections available on the web – or at least find where they’re kept. Examples of local collections include the Ogden Prisoner of War  Camp collection at the WSU Library,  the Utah Ski Archive at the University of Utah Libraries, the Eurodocs collection at the BYU library and many more.

NOTE:  use Google NOT Google Scholar

For example:  a Google search on Utah diaries pulls up links to several collections – some web accessible, some available at various Utah colleges and universities.   To find the ski archives, search for Utah ski archives, and so on.

Find materials in a foreign language

Search engines such as Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo and Yahoo, work best for English language (and translated) sources.  If you want sources in a foreign language, you need to search in that language.  You should also try a search engine specific to that language, such as Google France  (https://www.google.fr)

For example:  to find letters written by Napoleon to Josephine, search:  napoleon lettres josephine.

For more political letters try Napoleon lettres relations extérieures.

Try different search engines.  They all produce slightly different results.  This is especially true if you normally use Google.  Google will try to outlets you and may discard valuable links.  Other good search engines to try are:  Bing, Yahoo and DuckDuckGo.   Be sure to try the Advanced Search features where available.

NOTE:  DuckDuckGo is useful because it doesn’t track your searches, which means it will show all results, not what it thinks you want.  If you want to stay with Google, try clearing out your search history first.

 Use a Specialty Search Engine:

Google News Archive Search – This was a very nice feature that allowed you to search old newspapers and provided aids such a timeline, etc.  The News Archive no longer exists as a separate entity; however, the content is still available if you are willing to work for it.  You can try a regular Google search. This works best if you have a specific topic (for example:  silver mining Nevada Comstock Lode).    Once you have results, click the down arrow on the right of the search box and use the advanced features, particularly the date fields.  NOTE:  Try doing a OneSearch search and limit to newspapers.  Most newspaper databases only go back to the 1990s for full text, but the articles in our Newspaper Archives database go back to at least the 18th century, and there are other exceptions.

 Google Earth  – Satellite images – requires a free software download, but gives great views of terrain.  Educational and other groups have already provided maps of important historical events such as the campaigns of Alexander the Great, U.S. Civil War battles, etc.  After you download the Google Earth software, you can either play around or download one of the programs that show battles, etc.  Look for a .kmz file.

If you’re planning on teaching, Google Earth for Educators has a lot of good information and there are some grants available from Google and other sources.

Image searching:  GoogleBing and Yahoo all have good image searches.  Also try:  Wikimedia Commons,  Google Art Project, and Flickr Creative Commons (be careful to stay on the Creative Commons part of the website.)  Finally, many museums are now allowing non-profit use of their materials.  Try to find a museum covering your time period or area or a general museum such as the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian, The British Museum and The Louvre.  Also check out the library’s ARTSTOR database.  Think of it as JSTOR for images.

Audio/video searching: try Google  and  Bing and Yahoo.  Also try Youtube.

Try a directory

The Hidden Web”  (also called deep or invisible web) consists of sites that search engines can’t find, usually due to the type of files they contain, such as database files.    Many of these sites are very useful.  The best way to find them is to use directory listings.  You access the listings either by choosing subjects or using a search engine that’s limited to that site.  The sites listed below all list hidden web sites of use to historians. One good general directory is ipl2 (Internet Public Library) (this unfortunately stopped updating Summer of 2015, but the information is still available.)   Yahoo Directory is another good general directory as well as one of the oldest directories around.    Search engines such as Google and Bing index the content of some, but not all, of these sites.

The WWW-VL  History Central Catalog  – The WWW Virtual Libraries are the granddaddies/mommas of web guides/directories they date back to the days when the web was text only – no graphics – ever heard of Lynx?)  and most are still very good.  From Albania  to Zimbabwe, from  Finding Aids to Scholarly Exchange, this is the place to begin.   NOTE:  some categories are not updated regularly and have a lot of dead links.

The Internet History Source Books  – These are excellent places  to begin looking for translated history sources on the web.  Quality does vary, but is  overall excellent.  They do have problems with keeping links updated, but it’s usually easy to take the source information and do a Google/Bing, etc. search to find new links.

Best of History Sites  (now:  EdTech Teacher Best of History Websites) was an award-winning portal to the best history sites on the net and is still worth a look.  It provides a list of sites and search engines that provide access to “hidden web” sites, which are often useful to historians.  It also links to sites on lesson plans and teaching with technology.

Digital History: using new technologies to enhance teaching and research  from the University of Houston.  The title says it all.  American history only.

The PBS website can be a good place to find background information and sometimes primary sources or a bibliography listing them.  For example:  African American World,  Marie Antoinette & the French RevolutionFrom Jesus to Christ:  The First Christians.  National Geographic and the History Channel can have good background information as well.

The BBC History website has a lot of historical information, including primary sources.  Focus is on British and European history but includes good materials on other areas.

 Finding non-digital primary sources

Finding primary sources in books

Primary sources in book form can be either the book itself,  such as an autobiography, a book from the time period being researched, or an edited version of a journal or letters, or the book may be a collection of primary sources.  Collections can vary from important documents from all periods of history to documents relating to a specific time and  place.

Use the library catalog  or Worldcat  to find these sources.  Use terms such as primary, sources, and documents plus the era you  wish to research.  Ask a librarian for help if you’re having problems.

Finding primary sources in archives & special collections

1.  Ask an expert in the field – a professor, Special Collections curator or librarian.

2.  Use a bibliography (book, encyclopedia  or web or literature review in a journal) on your topic.

3.  Do a web search – many libraries list important collections on their websites.

Using Wikipedia

Having problems finding primary sources?  Check out Wikipedia.  A decent article on a historical subject will include primary sources, both written and visual and often translated.  Good articles will actually quote from the sources, but all should at least include them in the references.  EXCEPTION:  the only extant sources haven’t been translated or are  not generally available – for example, an untranslated papyrus that hadn’t been published in print or online.

WARNING:  you need to be careful.  Wikipedia entries too often link to old, out of copyright, translations.  If the translation isn’t 1890 or newer, avoid it.  Earlier translations, even if accurate, tend to be in archaic English difficult for many students.  AND  if you see the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica used as a reference, especially if it’s used more than once, run, don’t walk, away from the article.

Evaluating primary sources

Unless you are dealing with a primary source in its original form, such as letters or manuscripts where you actually have the physical objecta, the source you use has probably been adapted to a new format, edited or otherwise manipulated.  You need to consider these changes when you use the source.

Things to consider:

  1.  Who is responsible for the changes?  An expert in the field?  An interested amateur?  A group with a bias?
  2.   What kinds of changes were made?  Is it an exact scan of the original? If it’s an exact copy, does it show all sides of the object?  Is the digitization good enough to pick up erasures, watermarks etc.?  Is it a transcription?  A translation?  A black and white photograph of a colored object?  An outline drawing of an archaeological site?
  3. Do others use, applaud and agree with the version you’re looking at?  Can you find reviews?  Are they positive or negative?
  4.  Does the editor/adapter clearly show/discuss any changes made?  Is there a critical apparatus? (a section discussing why the editor/adapter made the choices s/he did.)

When you use internet versions of ancient writers, you need to be very careful.  Many of the free translations were made in the 18th and 19th century. While some of the translations are acceptable (stick to ones dated 1890 to the present), the older translations are often unacceptable because we simply know more about translating ancient (and modern) languages.  Meanings can change from older to newer translations.  This can be as simple as older sources using more polite terms in the translation than were used in the original.  Also, they are continuing to find papyri and other sources that impact the translation and can change its meaning.

Finally, when older sources are transcribed to the web, things such as footnotes and any critical apparatus are often left off.  You also have no way of telling how accurate the transcription is.  Humans and machines both  make mistakes.  So, use a reliable source.

For other things to consider, check out our general evaluation guide.

Leave a comment

Filed under Primary Sources

Information Ethics — intellectual property rights

The post on cheating looks at  information ethics in terms of right versus wrong.  In this post, we’ll  look at information ethics from a legal as well as an ethical perspective.

Intellectual property rights are concerned with the ownership of created works.  Created works include, but are not limited to,  books, articles, music, movies, games, software, art,  and websites.  The owners of created works have certain rights unless s/he has signed away those rights.

Copyright is the most familiar of these rights.  Copyright is a legal concept.  The laws governing copyright vary from place to place and with different time periods.   In current U.S. law, the person who created the work automatically has copyright without registration or payment (this is a change from previous U.S. copyright laws.)

Under U.S. law, copyright holders have the right to determine how their work will be used, with the exception of fair use, which we’ll look at later.  Copyright holders may also assign, or give, their copyright to another person, or more commonly, the company or institution they work for.

Copyright infringement is the use of copyrighted work without the author’s permission.  Historically, this has been difficult to prove for books and other printed materials, although the web is changing that.  As with plagiarism, it is easier both to infringe copyright and to catch the infringers thanks to the web.     Most successful lawsuits these days are brought against those who use music and/or film without getting permission from the copyright holder.  The term piracy is often used when discussing copyright infringement of music, movies and software.

When you infringe copyright you are also usually guilty of plagiarism.  However, you can plagiarize works without infringing copyright.  For example:  most government documents are in the public domain, which means you don’t have to ask permission to use  the information in them.  However, copying the information without giving credit is still plagiarism.  (Caution:  some government documents are copyrighted.   Copyrighted works will generally say so – check the back side of the title page.)

You may not think of yourself as a copyright holder (or owner), but if you take photos, create art (and crafts!), write, etc.,  then you are.  If you post photos, art, writings, etc., online, you need to be  careful that you are not signing away your rights when you post on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Before you post, check out the terms of service.  Yes, terms of service are headache inducing, but Facebook, and more  recently Instagram, have included language in their terms of service that would allow them to use your works pretty much however they wish.  Public outcry forced both to back down, but they have not changed their terms of service. (Check out Facebook’s Terms of Service, especially Section 2, #1, last sentence.)


Right about now you may be asking yourself  “how can I write a paper if I have to ask permission to use everything?”  The answer is fair use.  Fair Use  is a limitation on a copyright holder’s rights.  Thanks to fair use, you can quote brief passages from books, articles, etc., copy articles for personal use, make a mix list from music you own legally, use images and charts for educational purposes, etc.  YOU MUST STILL GIVE CREDIT or you  are guilty of plagiarism.

Fair use is generally limited to educational uses such as research papers, class presentations and art projects.  Most plays and movies presented on campus do not fall under fair use.  In most cases, you must purchase the right to present plays or movies for any group larger than a single class, and always if you charge admission (you could probably get away with asking for cans for the Food Bank for a movie shown at your religious institution of choice, but not much more).  Fair use may also apply to not-for-profit groups such as scouts and churches if the actual audience will be small.

General rules for fair use:

Things are more likely to fall under fair use if:

1.  Use is limited (for example:  one class)

2.  Only a small portion of a work is used

3.  The purpose is educational

Public Domain:  Works in the public domain  either are no longer covered by copyright or were never copyrighted (for example, many government publications.)  For research purposes, public domain means you can use large chunks of information without asking permission.  HOWEVER, you still must give credit or you are plagiarizing.

Copyright Expiration:  Copyright is granted for a specific period of time, which varies depending on the location and the most recent law.  In the U.S., current law says that all works created before January 1, 1923 are in the public domain.  CAUTION:  Some works, such as Huckleberry Finn or Pride and Prejudice,  that are out of copyright, may be published in new editions, in which some (for example, an introduction)  or all (for example, notes throughout the text)  of which may be protected by copyright.

Works created between 1924 and 1964 may or may not be protected by copyright.  You need to check each work to be sure.  Want to know more?  Check out the chart by Peter Hirtle of Cornell University.  (There’s a reason why intellectual property lawyers make a lot of money.)


Plagiarism:  using materials without giving proper credit (= cheating = unethical)

Falsification:  giving incorrect information, especially when giving credit  (= cheating = unethical)

Copyright Infringement:  using too much copyrighted material without getting permission  (illegal)

Fair Use:  The ability to use a small amount of copyrighted material for educational, or other non-profit purposes, without getting permission – if you give proper credit.

Public Domain:  a work  is in the public domain if the copyright has expired OR if the work was never copyrighted.

Leave a comment

Filed under Information Ethics

Information Ethics — cheating

What do we mean by information ethics?  The short answer is:  it’s the ethical use of information.  The long answer is a bit more complex.   Joan M. Reitz, in her Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science, defines it as:   “The branch of ethics that focuses on the relationship between the creation, organization, dissemination, and use of information, and the ethical standards and moral codes governing  human conduct in society.”  (http://www.abc-clio.com/ODLIS/odlis_i.aspx)*

For students this means dealing with issues such as plagiarism, falsification, and intellectual property rights.   This post will cover cheating, the next post will look at intellectual property rights.

The Weber State University Student Honor Code (6.22.IV.30.2) details what the university considers unethical and what the results will be for students who exhibit such behaviors.  All students are responsible for knowing   what to avoid.  Ignorance is not considered an acceptable excuse.

What do you need to know?  The basic concepts relating to information ethics so you won’t accidentally do something that’s considered academic dishonesty.  If you do it on purpose – that’s on you.  For those of you who might be wavering, keep in mind that while it’s easier to cheat these days,  it’s even easier to catch someone cheating.

Plagiarism  – this is a term that covers several different types of cheating.  Basically, it means claiming someone else’s work as your own.  There are three important types:

  1. Direct plagiarism – this is what most people think about when they hear the word plagiarism.  It means copying someone else’s work and claiming it as your own.
  2. Accidental or unintentional plagiarism –  there are several ways you can plagiarize accidentally.  These days, the  most common type of accidental plagiarism is when you give credit properly, but your source has plagiarized the information .  This happens when you use non-academic web sources (and it’s why you’re told to avoid them.)  Not giving proper credit and paraphrasing that are too close to the original are other ways people plagiarize accidentally.   I strongly advise you to avoid paraphrases – this is where most people have a problem.  Either do a direct quote or summarize.  Give credit to the author either way.
  3. Self-plagiarism is a related concept.  This is when you use part or all of a paper (or other assignment) that you did previously for a current assignment without indicating that you’re using previous work.  You can quote small sections (make sure to give yourself credit); however using long passages or giving a previously written paper a new title and re-submitting it are both considered cheating.

Even if you plagiarize accidentally, it’s still considered plagiarism and there are consequences if you get caught.  As I said above, ignorance is not considered an excuse.

Falsification – giving information that is false in some way.  The most common academic falsification is:   you can’t remember exactly where you found a quote.  The paper is due in one hour.  You guess and do a citation based on your guess.  You are wrong.  You’ve just committed falsification (also called misattribution.)  Falsification also includes activities such as falsifying data, making up sources and the like.

How do I deal with students who plagiarize?

First time:  you lose credit for the question and cannot revise.  I warn you about penalties if it happens again.
Second time:  in same assignment  –
     If I think it’s accidental (for example:  you confuse two citations but the rest looks good) – you lose points and can’t revise.
     If I think it was done on purpose (it’s an exact copy of a web source) – you fail the assignment and I report you to the Dean of Students. (NOTE:  the Dean of Students keeps a database of people who have been caught plagiarizing, cheating, etc.  Multiple incidents might result in academic probation or other penalties.)

Second time – different assignment – you fail the course, I report you to the Dean of Students.

The web makes it much easier to plagiarize either accidentally or on purpose.  It also makes it much easier for instructors to catch you.

How do you avoid cheating?  

  • Make the decision to do your own work.
  • Keep track of your research.
  • Avoid paraphrasing – it is very difficult to paraphrase without plagiarizing.  Summarize or use a direct quotation  instead.
  • Be very careful when you use non-academic sources on the web.
  • Give credit properly (we’ll look at this in the section on giving credit)

*I got the reference to this definition from the Wikipedia article on Information Ethics.  Finding useful sources is one of the ways you can use Wikipedia for academic assignments.

Leave a comment

Filed under Information Ethics

Assignment 1: Research Questions , SalemWitchTrial

Question 1. What is your general topic? (1 pts)
The Salem Witch Trials
Question 2. (5 pts.)
a. What is your core question? (4 pts)
How did religion and the Salem Witch Trials influence each other?
b. Explain (in 2-3 sentences) why you chose to research this aspect of the
topic (1 pts)
I am interested in how religion influenced peoples thinking of witches and
how they viewed magic. I also think it is interesting what part of their
religion made them fear these things, and why.
Question 3. (9 pts)
a. Write your research question. (4 pts)
How did religion influence the persecution of Salem “witches?”
b. b. List all of the keywords and key phrases in your research question. (3
Salem witch trials, Salem Witch, Religion and witches
c. List at least 2 alternative keywords/phrases you could use. (2 pts)

Christianity & Witches

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Assignment 1: Research Questions

What is your general topic?   

Who was Gaius Julius Caesar?


What is your core question?

Why is Gaius Julius Caesar a celebrated historical figure?

Explain (in 2-3 sentences) why you chose to research this aspect of the topic

I’ve always been interested in Roman history. Gaius Julius Caesar is one of the most famous Roman rulers and I would like to know how he changed Rome.


Write your research question.

How did Gaius Julius Caesar come to power?


List all of the keywords and key phrases in your research question.

“Rome before Caesar” and “Rome after Caesar” are very broad. “Rome under Caesar’s rule” and “the reign of Julius Caesar” are more specific. “Julius Caesar’s rivals” is even more specific. “Life of Gaius Julius Caesar” is even more specific.

List at least 2 alternative keywords/phrases you could use.  

“Early Roman Empire” is broader than “Julius Caesar”

“Victories of Julius Caesar” More Specific than “Roman victories”

Leave a comment

Filed under Assignment 1 posts

Assignment 1: Research Questions-kinghenrythefifth

  1. Topic: I’m interested in researching prostitution in Victorian Britain.
    • The topic of sex in Victorian Britain has always been fascinating to me because of the ironic manner. Victorian Britain is known to be extremely strict and conservative; however, the sexual practices and the wide existence of prostitution prove otherwise. Thus, I wanted to learn what kind of role and effect prostitution had in Victorian London.
  2. Core Question: What does prostitution tell us about the economic state of Britain in the 19th century?
    • I knew that a lot of the prostitution existed due to a lot of economic hardships in Victorian Britain and prostitution was the main source of income for many women. Thus, I wanted to dig deeper and learn more about what the existence of prostitution meant and what kind of an effect it had on the economy. I wanted to know if prostitution was fueling the economy in a positive way, or if it was creating a bigger problem in the economic growth of the time.
  3. Research Question: What kind of effect did prostitution have on the economic growth of 19th century Britain?
  4. Keywords and Keyphrases: “prostitution,” “Victorian Britain,” “economy,” “19th-century Britain,” “Victorian era,” “economic growth”
  5. Alternative Keywords and Keyphrases: “Sex trade,” “industrial London,” “19th-century England,” “society,” “progressive era”

Leave a comment

Filed under Assignment 1 posts, Uncategorized

Assignment 1 – Research Question

Question #1: My general topic is the silk road and how it effected the economy

Question #2: a. My core question is: How the silk road effected the western economy of the old world.

b. I chose this topic because the silk road was a very significant trade route in the ancient world. With the main export being silk, China exported many other things which had an affect on the surrounding civilizations. Not only was it significant, I just don’t know that much about it and would like to learn more about the silk road and in what ways it expanded the world of trade.

Question #3:

a. What impact did the silk road have on the western economy?

b. silk road, old world, Chinese exports, western economy, western trade, eastern economy

c. Marco Polo, silk worms, eastern exports

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Assignment 1: Research Question


Question 1. What is your general topic?   

Baroque Music

In the Baroque time period, One thing that It was known for was its style of music. compared to the music today, the way it was played, the instruments, and the written music were all different. An example of this is that instead of the soloist being accompanied by a piano, it was a clavichord. Something unique about reading the music is the articulations. This includes things like trills, slurs, repeats, and special note ornamentation.

Question 2.   

 1. What is your core question? 

What influences in the Baroque period reflect in its music?

  1. Explain
    I’m currently studying flute here at Weber State. This semester, I am going to be performing 2-3 pieces from the baroque time period. Something interesting about the music from the period is on how you play it. (For example, the trills, the articulation, and the feeling it gives.) I thought it would be interesting to see what was behind the music and why. Some things that I wondered was: what was happening during this time period. What were the people and government like? Who were well known Baroque musicians? Or What drew the people to participate in the Baroque music?

Question 3.  

  1. Write your research question.
    In the Baroque time period, what societal influences reflected into the baroque music style?
  2.  List all of the keywords and key phrases in your research question.  (3 pts)
    “baroque music”, “societal influences”, “Baroque period”
  3. List at least 2 alternative keywords/phrases you could use.  (2 pts)

“Cultural influences”, “social effects”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Assignment 1: Research Question-historicallyanxious

1. Topic: I’m curious about Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte.

Jean Bernadotte was one of Napoleon’s Field Marshalls.  He also married Napoleon’s former fiance, which is curious.  He was named the Prince of Pontecorvo by Napoleon and eventually became the king of Sweden.

2. Core Question: How and why did one of Napolean’s Field Marshalls become king of Sweden?

I’m interested in how a French Field Marshall with an obscure and lowly background became the king of Sweden.  What were the steps involved in this process?  Why would the Swedish government want a man who most likely would be loyal to Napolean as their king?  Did becoming king of Sweden make him a traitor to France?  How did the Swedish government even know who he was?  All of these questions make me curious to discover the answers and learn about this episode of history.

3. Research Question: What was the process of Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte becoming the King of Sweden?

4. Keywords and key phrases: “Jean Bernadotte”, “Napoleonic era”, “Sweden”, “Field Marshall”, “1810-1818”

5. Alternative key words and phrases: “Charles XIV John”, “Charles III John”, “Prince of Pontecorvo”


Leave a comment

Filed under Assignment 1 posts

Assignment 1: Research Questions MedievalMedics86

  1. My general topic is medical history in the medieval era, what was some of the techniques scientists used? How did they discover treatments?
    1. My core question is how did science grow in the medical field, did it start off with one thing, then in (x) amount of years how did it change, and why.
    2. I chose this topic because it genuinely interest me, I love medical research. Learning how it changed, how people discovered and studied their findings is worth learning about. There is a lot of different little subjects surrounding medical history, but this certain era really interests me, especially because they did not have ethics at all like we do today when it comes to studies and discoveries.
    1. “How has the history changed beginning in the Medieval times?”
    2. history, medical, change, ethics, and medieval
    3. evolution, documents, and science


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Research Question

  1. Topic: Anesthetics used in the 1800’s
  2.  Core Question: What were the affects of anesthetics?
  3. Research Question: What were the affects from anesthetics used by surgeons in the 1800’s?
  4. Keywords & Key Phrases: “affects”, “anesthetics”, and “1800’s”
  5. Alternative Keywords & Phrases: “Surgeons”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Assignment 1: Research Question- missblossom123

  1. My general topic is the Nazi non-supporters view on the events during World War II.
  2. My core question is what was life like for the non-supportive Nazi’s during World War II and how they went against what they used to believe in to help others. I chose this topic because i am interested in World War II. It was such a horrible time and i want to know how it came to be and what happened during it. There were some Nazi’s that were against what the other Nazi’s believed and they actually helped some of the captives free from the concentration camps . I think that is really amazing how they risked their lives to save another even when they know what would happen if they got caught.
  3. a. How did the non-supporters of the Nazi’s impact the survival rate during World War II?

b. World War II, Nazi, non-supporter, survive

c. Hitler, concentration camps

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized