This week the Skills Team blog is all about best practice when using websites as sources in your work. Don’t forget to follow their blog

DO use websites as resources

Let’s get that out of the way to begin with.  Some people are scared of using them because they do not think they are ‘proper academic resources’. This is rubbish. ANYTHING is a ‘proper academic resource’ as long as you approach it with appropriate criticality.  Some things on the web are peer reviewed and can be used as sources of authoritative information in the same way as a journal article (i.e. still with some criticality but more trust). At the other extreme, some things are written by a teenager in their bedroom and should never be used an authoritative source – but potentially, you could still use these as examples of current teenage discourse on a subject if that was appropriate to your work.


DON’T just give the URL as your in-text citation or entry in your reference list

You should reference a website just like you would reference a book or journal. For students using Harvard* this would be the author and year in the text i.e. (Reynolds, 2014) and the following information in the reference list:

Author(s) (Year) Title of web page in sentence case. Available online: URL [Accessed date].

i.e.

Reynolds, G. (2014) Top ten slide tips. Available online: http://www.garrreynolds.com/preso-tips/design/ [Accessed 27/3/2019].

For students using footnotes* the entry in the footnote would include:

Initial(s). Surname of author(s), Title of web page in sentence case(Date). Available online: URL [Accessed date].

i.e.

G. Reynolds, Top ten slide tips (2005). Available online: http://www.garrreynolds.com/preso-tips/design/ [Accessed 27/03/2019].

Corporate authors (often deduced from the website name) can replace individuals if no author is stated.

*Students using APA or OSCOLA should check out the Referencing Guidelines pages and click on the appropriate link.


DO research the credibility of the author of articles or posts

Blog posts or articles written by published authors have more authority than those that do not. A quick search on Google Scholar or Amazon could give you enough information to make a judgement on their credibility.


DON’T forget to read comments

Although blog posts and internet articles are not officially peer reviewed, you can get an idea about how well they have been received by reading the comments section. These will often show you alternate positions (again remember they are not necessarily written by sensible people).


DO use websites as sources of official documents

Official documents such as company reports, government papers, NHS policies etc. are often accessed via websites or occasionally are even presented as websites. For company reports and policy documents it is best to include the website in your referencing information i.e.:

NHS (2013) Everyone counts: planning for patients 2013/14. NHS Commissioning Board. Available online:http://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/everyonecounts-planning.pdf[Accessed 28/3/2019].

For government papers however, even if you have accessed them online, you do not include this information:

HM Government (2012) Open Data White Paper: Unleashing the potential (Cm 8353). London: The Stationery Office Ltd.

There are all sorts of different official documents accessed online, for full details of how to reference them go to Referencing Guidelines and click on the appropriate referencing style.


DON’T cite Wikipedia (or anything similar like Answers.com)

We are not saying don’t use wikipedia – it can be a really useful place to go to get an overview of something tricky you have found in a book or article. However, this should just enable you to understand the information in the other source better – and that is what you should be citing. Even though some information in wikipedia comes from perfectly reputable sources, your tutors will not credit you for citing it directly – you can of course go to the source links at the bottom of a page to verify information and cite those instead.