There is a vast array of websites available on the public web. There is some authoritative information available on company and organizational websites, such as reports and government documents.
The decision to use internet sources in your paper depends on the nature of the assignment. Always check with your professor if you are unsure whether you should use internet sources in your paper.
Regardless of the type of internet source you consult, it is important to evaluate your sources to ensure that they are authoritative resources to use for your assignment (you can review the PARCA Test.)
Why Do I have to be Critical of the Sources I find on the Internet?
One of the great things about the internet is that you can create information and share it with the world, and one of the worst things about the internet is that you can create information and share it with the world. On the web, it’s really easy to manipulate and disseminate misinformation. There have been plenty of prank edits to Wikipedia entries and fake news stories that spread around the web until proven incorrect. There is a lot of fabricated misinformation out there!
Another thing to keep in mind is that authoritative information is not always free. While it’s true that some expert knowledge is available for free (like on the websites below), but the majority of expert information (like journal articles, case studies and company reports) is kept in very expensive databases and behind paywalls. You cannot get free access to these sources through Google. Luckily, RULA pays for access to these databases, thus giving you access to “authoritative information” from on our website.
So what kind of websites should I use?:
Company (e.g., Rogers Communications.)
Educational institution (e.g., Ryerson University)
Government (e.g., federal, provincial, municipal)
Personal, archive (e.g., Nelson Mandela Digital Archives)
Professional or scholarly associations (e.g., American Psychological Association)
International body (e.g., United Nations)
Other types of websites
These types of sites can be useful for generating ideas and can provide a good starting point for further exploration. However, you should be careful about using them as a “source” in your essay.
Wikipedia & Encyclopedia:
Whether you are using Wikipedia, or a more specialized online encyclopedia, it is best to use these sources primarily as jumping-off points for more in-depth research rather than as the main source for a paper or for supporting your arguments.
If you are required to use academic or scholarly sources you will need to go beyond Wikipedia and look for academic books or journal articles.
*Remember, Wikipedia is a Wiki and is edited by its users. Information can be inaccurate and biased. For this reason, we do not recommend using Wikipedia as a source in your academic papers.
For more information on Wikipedia please check out this video from North Carolina State University called “Wikipedia: Beneath the Surface.” (Closed Captioned)
Blogs & Podcasts:
Blogs can be particularly useful for current issues, trends and opinions. Personal blogs are often self-published. Therefore, it is important to review the “About” section of a blog to investigate the author’s credentials and bias.
Podcasts range from interviews, to lectures, to extended opinion pieces and may consist of audio or video files. Podcasts can be useful for an assignment when they are produced or authored by reliable sources such as universities or reputable media organizations (e.g., TVO, CBC, PBS).
Remember anyone can publish a blog or a podcast so it is essential that you think critically about authority and potential bias when you are using blogs and podcasts (see PARCA Test).
In addition to feature films and television series, videos can include professionally produced documentaries.
Documentaries often include on-camera interviews with experts, and they can be a good source of background information, first-person accounts, and critical perspectives on a topic. Videos are particularly useful as a visual aid for classroom presentations of complex ideas.
Video-sharing websites such as YouTube provide a wide variety of sources.
While some materials available on such websites present well-supported ideas and information, many are produced without regard to accuracy and thoroughness of content (review the PARCA test).