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London Metropolitan University

Can you use this in your coursework?: Web sources

Can you use this in your coursework?

Web sources

The internet can be a valuable source of information. Organisations and government departments will publish reports and statistics online, and today there is a worldwide movement towards making research available to the general public through Open Access portals and databases. However it is important to remember that anyone can publish anything on the web. It doesn't require much technical knowledge for someone to start a website nowadays, and so you cannot assume that a website author knows what they're talking about, however knowledgeable or passionate about the subject they may present themselves to be.

Take a look at Tree Octopus which highlights the plight of the endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus.  In fact, there's no such animal as a tree octopus...but on the face of it, this site presents a convincing plea for help. It's only when you delve into the FAQs and some of the other sections of the site that you realise it may not be entirely serious!

On the other hand, the website allows you to search for and read the full text of Acts of Parliament and other types of UK legislation; this could be a really useful resource for some students' assignments. This site has in its URL, which shows that it is a UK government website, and there are comprehensive sections explaining what information can be found there, who runs the site, what types of queries they can help with, and how to get in touch with them via email addresses which also contain - all of this suggests that this website is authoritative. 

Earlier on we offered some guidance on finding and using web sources in Finding information on the internet. If you are intending to use web sources in your coursework, you need to evaluate them for reliability first. 

Here are some other questions to ask yourself when deciding whether to use a web source:

Questions to ask when evaluating web sources

In January 2021, in response to the huge amount of information swirling around about the COVID-19 pandemic, the world Heath Organisation (WHO) created a guide to help people determine misinformation. This guidance can be applied more broadly to determine the reliability of a web source.