Ok, another big beef for the New York History Day staff is when Wikipedia entries show up on bibliographies. Wikipedia can be a great place to learn more about your topic, and it can provide leads for in-depth research, but it shouldn’t be considered a top source. Therefore, it shouldn’t be on your bibliography.
Visit sites with a national or international reputation for quality information. You know that if you visit, say, the National Archives online at www.archives.gov, you are most likely going to get legitimate information. Other good sources include the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, state-run places like the New York State Museum.
Do some fact checking. If you find some exciting information on a questionable site, do some fact checking by verifying it using one or more additional sources.
Determine the source of the site. This one’s easy. If you can’t figure out who created the site, don’t use it!
Ask, “What is the motive of the web site sponsor?” Is the purpose of the site to inform, like the Library of Congress does? Does the sponsor use the site to advocate a point of view, like the National Rifle Association or the National Organization for Women do? Does the site exist primarily to sell something? Is it place for people to express their individual opinions, like bloggers do? Although you can find quality information on sites with all of these motives, you should primarily look for sites that try to inform without an agenda or a bias.
Ask, “How scholarly is the website?” How can you tell? Use the following criteria:A scholarly web site will:- Refer to known experts on the topic/field and quote or paraphrase their work.- Share alternate viewpoints.- Encourage debate, discussion, and criticism.- Feature quality primary and secondary resources.An unscholarly web site may: – Present only one way (the “right” way) of thinking. – Use attacks and ridicule against opposing viewpoints. – Contain very few references to primary or secondary scholarly sources. – Present information and views out of their proper context.
Find sites with the following characteristics:
• The site clearly states its purpose and/or motivation.
• The person or persons responsible for the site content have been clearly identified.
• The site contains a link to the homepage or the person or organization who is responsible for it.
• The site’s sponsors and/or advertisers are clearly listed.
• The site has other links that help users learn more about the information included at the site. (For example, references to reputable sources, like www.archives.gov.)
So, now you’ve got some tools that should make you a stronger researcher. If you have any questions about internet sources and History Day, contact us.