Monthly Archives: December 2018

Assignment 2: Information Ethics lemlichc


Couronne, Ivan. ‘Real’ fake research hoodwinks US journals. 7 December 2018.

I liked this source because it kind of debunked people who wrote articles on basically information that didn’t exist or false information all together. It gives an example of someone who wrote an article on Dog Parks and why they’re “Petri dishes for canine ‘rape culture.” Supposedly there was a lot of research done but it turns out it was all fake. I think this gave a good example of falsification because all of the examples given were of false studies and information.

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Finding, citing & evaluating general web sources: finding

In this reading, we’ll look at what I call the general web.  Basically, the general web can be described as what your instructors mean when they say:  “no internet.”  (Note:  some instructors include scholarly search engines in the “no internet” category – ask before using Google Scholar or PubMed.)

We’ve already looked at other web-based resources:  these include library databases such as Academic Search Ultimate, plus many subject specific databases.  You can think of library databases as specialized search engines.  Library catalogs are another kind of specialized search engine.  Our library catalog tells you what physical items the library owns:    books, CDs, DVDs, etc. ) We’v also used OneSearch, the library’s new easy search system, which searches Stewart Library’s catalog, and most of its library databases  from a Google-like interface.  It also allows you to search materials from other libraries and universities.

In this reading, we’re going to look at the general web, focusing on  how to find good information, how to give credit for the information you use, ways you can use Wikipedia, what to avoid and how to  decide what to avoid.

Instructors say “no internet” because they know that the quality of information on the web varies wildly from excellent (rare) to horrible (common.)  The easy way to avoid these issues with quality is to use a  library databases or  Google Scholar.

Instructors also know that  it’s very easy to accidentally plagiarize when you use general web sources.   If the source you use  plagiarized, then you have plagiarized too.   Sometimes the problem goes back several layers.  For example: the original author plagiarized, either accidentally or on purpose.  The next people to use that post are guilty of plagiarism even if they give credit properly and so are you because you are continuing the act of plagiarism.  The fact that you did it accidentally may or may not help – it depends on your instructor.

However, the biggest issue with sources from the general web is figuring out what type of source you have.  If you don’t know the type of source, you won’t be able to determine if it’s an acceptable for your assignment.   Library catalogs, library databases, and (to some extent) scholarly search engines, identify the type of source and OneSearch lets you limit to a specific type of source.  Outside of news sites, it’s rare for a general web source to clearly identify its type.  You need to be able to distinguish a news article from a blog from a personal webpage from a term paper mill (Avoid the temptation to buy a research paper.  You might not get caught buying the paper, but you will get nailed for plagiarizing.)

Despite all of these issues, there are still  excellent sources available on the general web.   The problem is a.) finding them,  b.) figuring out what kind of source it is so you c.) can determine if it’s acceptable for your research and d. cite it properly.

There are several things you can do to increase your chances of finding good sources.

Make sure your instructor lets you use the general web to find sources before using them in an assignment.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

  1. Do a good search
    1. Try typing in your research question first.
    2.  If you’re not finding much or you have to go to the third page (or more) of results without finding much, try different combinations of keywords and key phrases. Keep a list of keywords and key phrases that work: you can often use them for library databases, too.
    3. Play around with keywords and key phrases until you have a search that finds the information you need .  Because Google searches  so many websites,  the more specific you can be, the better.  This is true for Bing and other search engines.
    4. Limit your search to the types of websites that are more likely to have high quality information by using a domain search.  .Com, .tv, .edu are all domains.  Country codes are the domains for a specific country (us = United States, uk = United Kingdom, mx = mexico, ru = Russian Federation.)
      1. Education (.edu) – especially sites associated with libraries and colleges.  (The U.K. equivalent of .edu is, Australia:; Canada and Mexico usually just use country codes:  .ca, .mx).  CAUTION:  be sure that you’re not using student work.
      2. Government (.gov, .mil, etc.)  – These sites can be an excellent source of statistics and other primary sources.
      3. Organization (.org) – these include professional associations, foundations, special interest groups, museums, etc.  Many of these groups provide high quality popular information on subjects such as controlling or living with specific medical conditions, information on requirements for a certain profession, etc.
    5. You can limit a search to a specific a domain several ways.
      1. Use the advanced search feature for the search engine you are using.
        1. For Google:
          1.   Type in  Look at the bottom of the screen.  On the far right, click on “Settings”  Click on “Advanced Search.”
          2.   If you don’t see “Settings” in the bottom right corner, look for the grid symbol in the top right corner.  Click on it.  Click on  “Search,”  you should then  “Settings” in the bottom right corner.  Click on it, then click on “Advanced Search.”
          3.   Memorize/bookmark this link:  you can also just type:
        2. For Bing:  Bing no longer has an advanced search menu – you’ll need to use site:  (see following)
      2. Type in your search followed by:  site:edu (or site:org, site:gov, etc.).
        1. Example:  searching using one domain name:  Athena AND Apollo site:edu
        2. Example:  searching using two domain names:  Jupiter  (or wildcats
  2. Use a web page, do not use an entire website.
    1. Use entire websites only when you are studying website design or a similar subject where you look at the site as a whole.
  3. Make sure the web page has enough information.
    1. In general, a web page should have a least 300 words of continuous text on the same subject.  Do a print preview.  If you have close to a page of information, you should be okay.
    2. No tables of content, no paragraphs linking to a full article (use the full article,) no lists of links with (or without) brief descriptions.
  4. Look at scholarly sites for scholarly information.
    1. It’s usually easiest to use library article databases or scholarly search engines to find scholarly information; however,  there are some good   scholarly web sources.
    2.  Sites such as those produced by libraries, museums and universities are frequently excellent.
      1.  For example:,,, and
      2. Remember that education sites often include student papers.  These are not considered scholarly sources.  Look for online links to papers by professors.  Papers by graduate students may be acceptable – check with your instructor to be sure.
      3. If you find a good student site that includes a reference list, check it for scholarly sources that might be useful.
  5. Look at popular sites for popular information.
    1. The great majority of general web sites are popular
    2. Look for high quality popular sites
      1. Reputable news sources such as CNN, the New York Times, the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News,  National Geographic is a good quality popular source.  The Smithsonian  has both scholarly  (click on Researchers at the top right) and good quality popular sources – the scholarly sources are usually more focused and contain data.  PBS and the BBC both have excellent information on many topics.  Check out: (we have the DVD),
      2. Associations, foundations, special interest groups and other organizations
        1. These sites often show bias.
          1.  This is okay as long as you deal with that issue in your paper – in other words, you basically evaluate the site within your paper and explain why the information is valuable despite a clear bias.
          2.  OR find a web site supporting the opposite view and compare and contrast the information found in each.  For example: and
          3. Some associations focus on providing useful information and raising money for research:
  6. Find primary sources
    1. The internet can be a great place to find good statistics, especially from government sources:, .  Many foreign governments have pages in English:,
    2.  Adapted sources such as photographs of art objects, old newsreels, digitized letters and journals, original works and translations of authors. etc.
      1. For example:,,,,
      2. Remember, you need to use information from reputable websites.
        1. NOTE:  while most primary source websites are free of advertising, there are some good ones, such as American Rhetoric, that use ads to pay for computer storage and the like.  A librarian or your instructor can help you decide if websites with advertising have good primary sources.  You can also google for reviews of the website.
    3. USE carefully:  Tweets, blog posts, Facebook posts,  user produced information such as iReport on CNN, personal YouTube videos, etc. Twitter can be used as a primary source that shows people’s reactions to a specific event, but not for much of anything else.  You can also get this type of information from the comments section of online news organizations.  Some blog posts, personal youtube videos, etc. can be good sources, but you will need to prove this to your instructor.

That leaves us with the big question – how do you tell what type of source you have?

  1. Determine the format of the source.  This is often the easiest way to determine the type of source you’re looking at.  For example:
    1. Most blogs have the word “blog” somewhere on the page.  If not, check for blogging platforms such as Blogspot,Typepad and, of course, WordPress.
      1. The class blog doesn’t say blog because I bought a domain name (  to make it easier to find.
      2. If you see a format like the class site – with entries and information in side columns – you very likely have a blog.
    2. The wiki format of Wikipedia is easy to spot – remember there are other wikis out there besides Wikipedia.  One to check out is Wikimedia Commons, which has images, sounds and videos freely available.  Most are public domain.
    3. If you see a number of short entries and a little blue bird, it’s probably a tweet.  Other social media, such as Facebook, are usually easy to identify as well.
    4. Other formats, such as PowerPoint, videos, and PDF or Word documents have an obvious format, but the purpose is always not as obvious.

USE COMMONSENSE!   This is a big one.  If you find a web page on your topic, but all you see is a summary in English, text in what appears to be cuneiform, and lines of dancing hamsters, this is not a good site to use for an academic assignment.  Dancing hamsters are pretty much always a sign that you should avoid that web page when doing academic research – unless the web page is an academic paper discussing the phenomenon of dancing hamsters. (Don’t remember the Hamsters?  Before there were cats, there were hamsters:  oris/dance/   (note the .edu address.)  Dance with music:   And check out the original source of the Hamster Dance music:  Disney’s animated Robin Hood (1972): 


Equal time for cats.

Still not sure about the type of source?

  1. Avoid it.
  2. Desperately need the information on the page?
    1. Determine who produced the information (or source).   This has two purposes:
      1. It will help you determine what type of source you have.  For example:  if  the information is on the CNN page, you can assume that it is related to news in some way.
      2. It will help you evaluate the information.  If you can’t find out who produced a source, or other pertinent information, you probably need to avoid it and ask for help to find the information you desperately need.
  3. Determine what the aim or purpose of the source is.  
    1. Information?
    2. Entertainment?
    3. Persuasion? 
    4. Something else?
    5. This information will also help you evaluate the source, which in turn will help you decide if you can use it for academic research.

If you can’t figure out what the aim or purpose of a source is, you can’t find any information on who produced it, and you don’t know what type of source you have, avoid it.  Ask a librarian to help you find the same information in a reputable source.


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Finding, citing & evaluating general web sources: citing

Citing web sources is just as difficult as determining what kind of source you have.  The problems are related.  You need to know the type of source to cite it correctly.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that there are no official format styles for many types of web sources.  How do you figure out how to cite them?

Start with checking the official style manual for the format you are using (MLA, APA, Chicago/Turabian).  If you don’t find what you need, try the OWL@Purdue list of examples.  They will give you a reasonable suggestion and explain why they formatted citations as they did.  If you don’t find what you’re looking for, either use the OWL search box (for example:  APA YouTube) or scan the OWL’s FAQs to find their suggestions for formatting:  MLA, APA.  Check out the University of Chicago Press website for information on Chicago/Turabian.

Still don’t see what you need?  Try a Google (or Bing, etc.) search (for example, if you want to cite a tumblr:  APA 6th tumblr library OR MLA 7th tumblr site:edu).  Adding in the word “library” or searching only .edu sites will help you find the best guides.  Libraries and writing centers have the best guides.  Be sure the guide is for Chicago 16th/Turabian 8th,  MLA 7th edition and APA 6th edition.  An even better way of  vvvvvvvv

Remember! Do not reference an entire website unless you’re using it as an example.

NOTE:   If your instructor wants a different version of Chicago/Turabian, APA or MLA, use that version.

Remember that in a real bibliography/reference list/ worked cited list, you would indent the second and any following lines.  Note that the title of website is in italics.

The publisher can also be referred to as the sponsor or sponsoring group or a corporate author (=an association, government agency, etc., cited as an author).  So, for the National Geographic citations, National Geographic  is both the title of the website and the publisher/sponsoring group/corporate author.

Chicago 16th/Turabian 8th

Author. “Title of webpage.” Title of the Website, if no title, publisher of website. Date of publication. Accessed date. URL.

Hawass, Zahi.  “King Tut’s Family Secrets.” National Geographic. National Geographic, Sept. 2010.  Accessed April 5, 2015.

MLA 7th edition

Author. “Title of webpage.” Title of the Website. Publisher Name, Day Mon. Year. Web. Day Mon. Year retrieved.

Hawass, Zahi. “King Tut’s Family Secrets.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, Sept. 2010. Web. 19 Apr. 2015.

 APA 6th edition

Author. (Year, Month day). Title of webpage. Title of the Website. Retrieved from URL of specific article

Hawass, Z. (2010, September). King Tut’s family secrets. National Geographic. Retrieved from

NOTE:  Don’t have an author?  Start with the title (King Tut’s…).  For APA, put the title followed by a period THEN put the date information in parentheses.  Never start with the date.

Using Word to cite pages from general websites. (Click to enlarge image.)

Using Word to cite general web sources.

Using Word to cite general web sources.
Courtesy of Microsoft.

NOTE:  Using Word 2013 or 365?  You don’t need to click on the  “Show all Bibliography Fields” box.  All fields are available.

Citing other web sources

Wikipedia makes it easy for you.  Once you’ve chosen a good article that you are allowed to use, then use their cite tool.

Using the Wikipedia cite feature.

Using the Wikipedia cite feature.
Courtesy of Wikipedia.

How to use the Wikipedia cite feature.

How to use the Wikipedia cite feature.
Courtesy Wikipedia

Blogs, newsgroups, Tumblr, forums, etc.

Turabian 8th edition

Author or screen name. “Title of Post.” Name of SiteDate of post. Accessed  date. URL.

Prain, Leanne. “Interview with the Knitorious M.E.G.” Yarn Bombing: Improving the Urban Landscape One Stitch at a Time. June 2, 2010. Accessed March 12, 2012.

NOTE:  some guides (and instructors) recommend using the format type  after the title UNLESS the format word appears in the title.  Some put it in parentheses, others do not.  I personally leave it out, but check with your instructor.

Example:  Prain, Leanne. “Interview with the Knitorious M.E.G.” Yarn Bombing: Improving the Urban Landscape One Stitch at a Time. (Blog).  June 2, 2010. Accessed March 12, 2012.


Example:  Prain, Leanne. “Interview with the Knitorious M.E.G.” Yarn Bombing: Improving the Urban Landscape One Stitch at a Time. blog.  June 2, 2010. Accessed March 12, 2012.

MLA 7th edition

Author or screen name. “Title of Post.” Name of Site. Message number if available. Name of Sponsor or publisher, Day Mon. Year posted. Web. Day Mon. Year retrieved.

Prain, Leanne. “Interview with the Knitorious M.E.G.” Yarn Bombing: Improving the Urban Landscape One Stitch at a Time. Yarnbombing. 2 Jun. 2010. Web. 12 Mar. 2012.

NOTE: I had really to search to find the author’s name and the posting date. If you use web sources, you’re expected to do the same.  If you don’t want the hassle of figuring out how to cite web sources, then stick with articles from library databases.

Message numbers  were more common in listservs,  forums,  and similar, older systems.

 APA 6th edition

Author or screen name. (Year, Month day). Title of post. [Web log post]. Retrieved from URL of specific post

Prain, L. (2010, June 2). Interview with the Knitorious M.E.G . [Web log post]. Retrieved from

NOTE:  The blog cited above is a good example of why a “date accessed” is helpful.  In 2012, the post was available.  It is no longer available from the blog.  You might be able to find it using The Wayback Machine.  (You can check out Knitorious M.E.G.  at her website:


Citing YouTube and other web videos

Turabian 8th edition

Author or screen name. “Title of Video.” YouTube. Date posted. Accessed date. URL of specific video.

  • If there’s no author/screen name posted, start with the title.
  • If there’s no date created, use copyright date if available OR use: n.d. for no date.

TheKheinz. “JK Wedding Entrance Dance.” YouTube. July 19, 2009.  Accessed March 12, 2012.

MLA 7th edition

Author or screen name. “Title of Video.” Name of Channel or Episode if Available. Name of Website. Name of Sponsor or publisher, Day Mon. Year created. Web. Day Mon. Year retrieved.

  • If there’s no author/screen name posted, start with the title.
  • If there’s no date created, use copyright date if available OR use: n.d. for no date.
  • If there’s no obvious channel or episode, leave it out.

TheKheinz. “JK Wedding Entrance Dance.” YouTube. 19 Jul. 2009. Web. 12 Mar. 2012.

APA 6th edition

Author or screen name. (Year, Month day). Title of video. [Video file]. Retrieved from URL of specific video

  • If there’s no author or screen name, start with the title of video THEN the date 

TheKheinz. (2009, July 19). JK wedding entrance dance. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Remember – if the citation for a bibliography/reference/works cited list is more than one line, indent the second – and any following – line 5 spaces.

Using Word to cite web sources

General Word format for other web sources.

General Word format for other web sources.
Courtesy of Microsoft


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Finding, citing & evaluating general websites: evaluating

Back in the Dark Ages when I was an undergraduate, sources were hard to find,  but easy to evaluate. Students these days have the opposite problem. Sources are very easy to find, but can be very hard to evaluate.   If you want to use a web source for an academic assignment, you are responsible for evaluating it – making sure it fits your assignment, that it’s high  quality,  and that it wasn’t plagiarized (yes, if you use a source that was plagiarized, you have plagiarized.)

What do we mean by evaluate?   You can check out the Merriam Webster dictionary definition here.  Definition 2 from Merriam-Webster is the closest for our purposes: “to determine the significance, worth, or condition of usually by careful appraisal and study.”

It’s tempting to use the most convenient source.  Doing so is a good way to fail an assignment.    So, how do you evaluate web sources to ensure you are using a quality source?  I’ve given you a list of things (see below) to look for, but it can help to have an aide-mémoire (look at definition 1 this time.)  Yes, it’s silly and hokey (definition  1 AND 2) and a bunch of other related adjectives, but I bet you’ll remember it.

Please watch all of this State Farm commercial*   and the first 30 seconds or so of  S/S 2014 | Barcelona.

Who is the real French model – the State Farm guy (Eric Filipkowski) or Clément Chabernaud?   When you make your decision, you are evaluating.  For a simple question like this,  the process of evaluation happens very quickly.  In fact, what you’re doing is comparing the two gentlemen against your idea of what a French Model should look like.  Your criteria may include:

  • looks
  • clothes
  • context (one was on a runway, the other was in a commercial)
  • their web presence
  • etc.

Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy to decide if a web source is a “real French model” or “fake.”  With time and practice, you can reach the point where evaluating a web source is straightforward.  Until you reach that point, it’s helpful to keep a cheat sheet on hand to help you decide

Use the criteria  below to  help you decide if your source is a “real”  French model or a “fake” one.  These criteria are the same ones you use to buy a car or a computer or anything else expensive, they’ve just been tweaked a bit to apply to information sources.

There are four basic categories you’ll need to consider:  (see details below)

  • relevance,
  • credibility
  • currency
  • objectivity.

When you’re trying to decide if a web source is okay to use in a paper,  you’ll need to consider at least one of the items in each category.  For more complex sources such as peer reviewed articles, you’ll need to consider several items in each category.

Fake or hoax sites

You may run into sites that you think might be fake.  Not sure?  There are several things you can do to check.  The first is to use a website that specializes in debunking internet (and other) stories.  Two of the better known are Snopes and the Museum of Hoaxes.  (Note:  these sites use ads to help support themselves, but are still considered mostly accurate at this time.)  You can also check Wikipedia or just try googling or binging and see what comes up.


For an evaluation checklist with text & video examples go to:

Evaluating websites, be they general sites, specialty sites, blogs, wikis, or videos, is tricky  because many are missing the types of information normally used to evaluate a source.

Can’t find the date or any information about the author?   This may be a good reason to avoid using a web source.

Evaluating web sources


  • Is the web page clearly relevant to your topic?
    • For example: you are writing a paper on how steroid use has affected public perception of baseball.
    • You find a web page about the chemistry of steroids.  While this website may be useful for background information, this website is not directly relevant.  You need to find a better source.
  • Cite only a single page or section from a website.  Do not cite an entire website!
    • Exception: you are writing a paper on website design (or something similar) and using the entire website as an example, not an information source.

Can you use related web pages? Yes, but:  Using a general web page as a source is iffy enough as it is.  Don’t add to the problem by trying to use a source that is not clearly and directly relevant.  Use related web pages for background only.

Right kind of web page?  Popular/scholarly/trade?  Primary or secondary?

  • Most web pages are popular.
  • Websites with primary sources suitable for academic research are usually associated with universities, museums and other academically inclined institutions,  or with government archives, and the like.
  • Most trade websites are published by professional associations.

As with articles from library databases, you need to keep in mind: who is the audience?

  • Look for web sources that have authors and provide information about the author.

If you can’t figure out who wrote/posted the information (be it a personal author or a group of some kind), then you should find a different source.

EXCEPTION 1:  Some government and association sites do not  list authors.  They have what are called “corporate authors.”  This means you use the name of the association or the government department or agency as the author.

EXCEPTION 2:  If you’re using the source as an example as opposed to a source of information,  you can use a source that lacks important information.


  • Look at your assignment and see what your instructor requires.
  • If your instructor didn’t mention dates, then think about your topic and whether it needs really current sources or older ones will do.
  • If you can’t find a date on a website, try to find the same information on a different website or in library databases.zasssssss

Dates can be hard to find.

  • Check at the bottom of the page, “About us” links, and other links with information about the site to find the information.
  • If there is a copyright date plus an updated date, use the updated date.
  • If there is a range (2008-2010, for example), use the range (in other words, use 2008-2010 instead of a single year.
  • Yes, if you want to use a web page, then it’s your responsibility to either find a date or be able to list 3 or more places you checked.


  • Does the information agree with the other articles and sources that you’ve found?
  • If the information doesn’t agree with most of the other sources, do the authors clearly tell you why they disagree and present evidence to support their ideas?
  • If you have both web pages and a magazine or journal article that say the same thing, it’s usually better to use the magazine or journal articles, because it’s usually clear who wrote the articles and you know the name of the magazine or journal.

Trustworthy web sources

  • Web pages from universities, museums, other academically inclined institutions, or governments usually have trustworthy material.
  • Web pages from non-profit institutions are often trustworthy, although you need to watch for bias.
    • EXCEPTION: Universities and other institutions often allow students and others to post web pages. These web pages may be good quality or they may not.
  • Be extra-cautious when using web pages that are not clearly done by experts at the institution (experts = faculty, curators, etc.)
  • Using student or other web pages not written by experts increases your chances of accidentally plagiarizing.
  • Even when using web pages done by experts, be sure to evaluate for information quality. Experts can produce poor quality information too.

Detective work

How do you find all of the information listed above?  You have to look for it.  When evaluating and citing websites, you are expected to be a detective.

  • You need to be willing to track down dates, author information, etc.
  • Check “About Us”
  • Check “Contact Us”
  • Check out whatever looks like it might have information.
  • Don’t forget the bottom of the page – that’s often where copyright information is.

You are responsible for finding whatever information is available.

Don’t want to do all that work? Use an article from a library database or a scholarly search engine.

Other things to keep in mind when evaluating a source:

There is also the issue of your own personal biases.  It’s impossible to be completely free of bias when doing an academic paper or project.  The goal is to be as objective as possible.  You do this by presenting the major opposing viewpoints relating to your topic.  Papers and projects that present both sides are stronger because they show that the writer knows what s/he is talking about and that s/he can defend his/her position  against all comers.   Doing an argumentative paper?  In an argumentative paper you are defending one side of a question.  An argumentative paper will be stronger if you support your side by taking the points of the opposing side and demolishing them.

Avoid ad hominem arguments.  In ad hominem arguments, the person is attacked, not the argument.  If you use an ad hominem argument, you’ve already lost because people assume you are using an ad hominem argument because you can’t defend your position.

Example:  Calling someone a ‘commie liberal’ instead of explaining why you think gun control laws are wrong is an example of an ad hominem argument.

Be sure to attack the information,, not the person.

Sounds like evaluation is a lot of work, doesn’t it?  In the beginning, it can be.  Once you’ve had some practice, you should be able to evaluate almost automatically.  You need to know how  to evaluate  your sources because you are responsible for using the best information you can find for papers and other assignments.

*NOTE:  I do not have State Farm insurance.  This link is merely for educational purposes and should not be considered as any kind of endorsement for State Farm.


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