Most of us have had the experience of sending by email something we wrote quickly—perhaps when rushed or angry.
Often these are things we wouldn’t print, sign, and mail, because those extra steps give us time to consider our words more carefully, and also because we recognize a higher expectation that things in print should be trustworthy.
If the site creator’s name is listed, it’s still sometimes hard to tell whether the information has been reprinted from some other source.
If you reach a website through a search engine, you may have to find the site’s homepage or search around in the “contact” information in order to identify the author or the organization that sponsors the site.
After finding a website that seems useful and tracking down the author’s name, you may need additional research (perhaps using Google) to learn whether the author has any claim to credibility.
But of course, countless reliable sources can be accessed on the web, and even unreliable sources have some uses in research writing. Popular Sources for more about unreliable sources.) These days, many students and scholars use Web sources extensively in research and teaching.
But websites change, and the address you used won’t always be active when your reader tries to view a source. See How to Copy and Paste but Not Plagiarize for advice about how to use electronic sources wisely.
For that reason, it’s important to include both the date you accessed the site and also a full account of the person, group, or organization that sponsors the site. Most of this guide focuses on helping you subordinate sources to your own ideas.
To some degree, these categories distinguish more and less reliable sources of information.
But the distinctions are neither clear nor entirely stable.