Searching Google, consulting Wikipedia, and reading web pages can be an effective means of getting quick information, but it is important to remember that these types of information are not scholarly. Why not? Academic sources are written by credentialed experts and peer-reviewed to make sure that the information is both timely and accurate. Your instructors at KU will most often ask you to limit or exclude information found on internet pages in your research. If you are trying to find academic sources, search the one of the many databases that KU Libraries subscribes to. If your assignment allows you to gather information from web pages, keep the following mind:
- Wikipedia--Like other encyclopedias, Wikipedia is a reference source that contains general information. This kind of information does not have the depth and completeness of coverage necessary to be cited in papers at the college and university level. These sources are often best used to survey basic information at the start of the research process. Additionally, open sources like Wikipedia are unable to provide verifyable information about the identity and credentials of the authors. Except in rare cases, sources like Wikipedia should not be used in your papers.
- Corporate and Organization Websites--Websites ending in .com or .org belong to businesses or interest communities. They are created to influence the viewer, to sell products or ideas. You should always be careful while evaluating the information on these sites. Ask yourself: where can I verify this information? What important information may be absent from this site? How trustworthy is this source?
- Educational Websites--Websites ending in .edu belong to schools and universities. While these institutions are highly trusted, the quality of the websites with .edu endings can be very different. For example, some schools provide access to students to create their own personal websites and do not monitor these pages for accuracy. On the other hand, some facaulty may post previously published papers on their websites (an academic source), or papers that have not yet been peer-reviewed (a non-academic source). Be sure to evaluate educational websites carefully to determine the quality of each source.
- Government Websites--Websites ending in .gov belong to the U.S. government (Federal, State and Local). Information found on these sites are generally considered reliable. Click here for a complete list of U.S. government websites.