Author Topic: Sources  (Read 220 times)

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Offline Jarhead0331

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Sources
« on: August 11, 2019, 09:55:00 AM »
When I was a student the internet was still in its infancy and using articles posted on the internet as source material for a serious historical publication was not the norm, and was discouraged for reasons of unreliability and trustworthiness.

I imagine much has changed over the last 25 years, but I recently took the time to look at the source list for an article published in one of my favorite monthly print publications and was surprised to see citations to forum posts and the Wikipedia. This strikes me as somewhat unprofessional, in that generally forum posts and even the wiki can be based highly on opinion and questionable and unverifyable research.

Am I just showing my age, or is this still a disfavored practice that brings the quality of the publication and article into question?
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Offline The_Admiral

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Re: Sources
« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2019, 10:12:59 AM »
Except as an item of research (for instance regarding a sociology paper related to internet forums behavior, and the likes) I wouldn't imagine adding anything of the kind to my list of references. Same thing with Wikipedia, that by its very DNA cannot be considered a source at all anyway (considering that, in theory, everything posted on Wikipedia HAS to be sourced prior to its existence...!)

Besides primary sources (an interview on Youtube, an online database, etc...) blog Posts and lite-research (i.e. The Conversation) are something else entirely if the author is duly identified. These could actually be allowed in my vision of a bibliography. Besides some articles might also only be available on internet (especially if they never got published), through Research Gate for instance. If this is the only way to access it, then I will mention it. For any web-based source, the time of access naturally matters too.

But then again, to each his own. I wouldn't allow it if I was to tutor someone in my fields (history, political science & economics) that's for sure.

Offline Tripoli

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Re: Sources
« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2019, 10:52:05 AM »
IMHO, it depends.  I wouldn't cite Wikipeda for anything, but I frequently go to wikipedia to see what sources it is citing for a proposition, and if some of them are edited or published.  I would then use those souces, if they addressed the proposition I was trying to establish.  Bottom line: if it is peer reviewed or edited, I would consider using it, even if it were published on the internet.  For example, the Naval War College Review is a printed publication, but it is also published on the internet. Cf. https://digital-commons.usnwc.edu/nwc-review/vol72/iss3/1/    I would have no problem citing it.    Similarly, an article from a newspaper could be cited, even if it were on-line.  What I wouldn't generally do is cite a blog post or a webpage when I was writing for a serious publication.  However, even this comes with some caveats.  For example, for certain narrow topics a particular web author may be an authority. If there are no other writings on that topic, and the author is particularly knowledgeable on the topic, it may be permissible to cite a webpost by that author. In other words, there needs to be some indicia of reliability in the information.  Something that is edited or peer reviewed presumably has such reliability.  (But not always: Cf. https://areomagazine.com/2018/10/02/academic-grievance-studies-and-the-corruption-of-scholarship/).  Similarly, a posting by a recognized expert within his area of expertise presumably has this indicia of reliablity, even if not edited or peer reviewed.  However, if I were to use a non-edited source in an scholarly publication, I would include a reason in the notes as to why I believed it to be accurate.  For example, a footnote explaining that the author of the cited document is a recongnized expert, that there are no contradictory sources to what they claim, etc. 

I agree with "The_Admiral" on the issue of primary sources on the internet.  If the internet post is a primary source, then it is permissible to use it, even if it were only on the internet.  For instance, I could cite to a video interview of a WWII veteran describing an incident, even if the incident isn't recorded in any edited publication.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2019, 10:59:51 AM by Tripoli »

Offline Gusington

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Re: Sources
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2019, 11:20:48 AM »
I am a few years older than you JH but I would never accept a Wiki page as a solid source.

Maybe the sources used on the Wiki itself, but not the page on its own for reasons cited above...mostly because a Wiki can be edited by anyone and is open to bias from everywhere.
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Offline W8taminute

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Re: Sources
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2019, 11:30:40 AM »
My high school aged daughters tell me that they are allowed to cite the internet as sources for research papers.  The only internet sites that their school will accept however, are government (.gov) or credible .org websites.  Wikipedia is forbidden.

Personally I would not use the internet at all for a bibliography but I'm old school.  (and f-king proud of it)
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Offline Tripoli

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Re: Sources
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2019, 12:03:44 PM »
My high school aged daughters tell me that they are allowed to cite the internet as sources for research papers.  The only internet sites that their school will accept however, are government (.gov) or credible .org websites.  Wikipedia is forbidden.

Personally I would not use the internet at all for a bibliography but I'm old school.  (and f-king proud of it)

The problem with using credible .org sites is what is a credible .org site?  For example, is the SPLC credible? (https://www.splcenter.org/).  I  wouldn't touch them with a 10-foot pole on the supposed area of their competence (hate groups) although others do so.  That is why I think the idea of peer reviewed and edited is a better, although not foolproof. 

Similarly, the idea of .gov websites needs to be approached with a degree of caution.  If I'm reporting on crime statistics, then the FBI uniform crime statistics webpage is good (https://crime-data-explorer.fr.cloud.gov/).  Likewise, I would likely cite a paper taken off the NASA technical paper server.  However, I wouldn't cite an indictment off of the DOJ webpage for the truth of the matter asserted.  Rather, it could only be used for what it represents, ie, the government's claim of a crime.  Bottom line: I think you need to evaluate any source and, when possible, compare it to other sources.  If there are accepted indicia of reliability (ie, a peer review or edited article from a reliable source), then it is okay to cite it.  If not, it can still be cited, as long as the reader is given a reason why you believe it to be reliable, ie, the author is an established subject matter expert, or similar reasons.

Offline Gusington

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Re: Sources
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2019, 12:27:13 PM »
^Good point on the difference between different types of .gov servers.

The best lesson I learned in both undergrad and grad school was to KNOW YOUR SOURCES.

My daughters are still young (11 and 13) but I try to have them understand that even now. 'Understand who is telling the story and why.'
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Offline bayonetbrant

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Re: Sources
« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2019, 04:01:20 AM »
When I was teaching, I would tell folks that they couldn't cite Wikipedia, but that it was a good place to find references to other sources.

Honestly, Wikipedia has really cleaned up their act from 10-15 years ago, and at this point, most of the historical articles / biographies are remarkably well quality-controlled.
Where you'll still find contentious issues are the current / ongoing events, and even then, they try really hard to (1) force people to cite their sources, and (2) represent as many different sources as possible if they conflict with each other.

As to citing forums / social media, you'll find those used more and more to note (1) breaking news (especially citing news sources on Twitter where a lot of folks will announce it then follow up with an article elsewhere), (2) reactions to events / man-on-the-street perspective, without having to actually get on the street, and (3) non-traditional topics that might have a very skimpy or infrequent publication record, like oh, tabletop wargames, but may have active forum communities.
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Offline Jarhead0331

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Re: Sources
« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2019, 08:28:54 AM »
Thanks for all the input, guys. Pretty much confirms my thinking.

The article I'm referring to covers a particular battle during WWII and the forum post and wiki entries cited to do not appear to fall into any of the possible exceptions you all have noted.

Its still a good article, so I do not want to discount it entirely, but I am surprised that these kinds of sources were relied upon and they really jumped out at me leaving a less than favorable impression.
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Offline bayonetbrant

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Re: Sources
« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2019, 09:15:08 AM »
Personally I would not use the internet at all for a bibliography but I'm old school.  (and f-king proud of it)

You're going to be missing a LOT then, as more and more companies like The Athletic are going all-digital, and their stable of sportswriters is top-notch (Feldman, Mandel, Stark, Burnside, Staples, Rosenthal, Pronman, Tenorio, etc).  They're not writing for print media anymore.
Similarly, you're getting more and more writers covering politics / current events in digital only form, whether its for Fox, CNN, BBC, NBC, or Sud-Deutsche Zeitung.  The world is moving too fast to wait for print media to keep up.
The key to surviving this site is to not say something which ends up as someone's tag line - Steelgrave

"their citizens (all of them counted as such) glorified their mythology of 'rights'...and lost track of their duties. No nation, so constituted, can endure." Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers

Offline W8taminute

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Re: Sources
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2019, 11:15:22 AM »
Personally I would not use the internet at all for a bibliography but I'm old school.  (and f-king proud of it)

You're going to be missing a LOT then, as more and more companies like The Athletic are going all-digital, and their stable of sportswriters is top-notch (Feldman, Mandel, Stark, Burnside, Staples, Rosenthal, Pronman, Tenorio, etc).  They're not writing for print media anymore.
Similarly, you're getting more and more writers covering politics / current events in digital only form, whether its for Fox, CNN, BBC, NBC, or Sud-Deutsche Zeitung.  The world is moving too fast to wait for print media to keep up.

I understand your point and yes a lot of our knowledge is going digital. 

I'm speaking though from a purely 'I need to write a paper for high school or college' viewpoint.  Certainly I could still go to my local library and find everything I need there in physical form?  As long as libraries are still a thing in the future that is.


On a sidenote:  Old physical books, newspapers, etc. that have not been tainted by modern revisionists are far more trustworthy IMHO than digital format will ever be.  But that's just my somewhat educated opinion. 
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Offline bayonetbrant

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Re: Sources
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2019, 11:26:07 AM »
I'm speaking though from a purely 'I need to write a paper for high school or college' viewpoint.  Certainly I could still go to my local library and find everything I need there in physical form?  As long as libraries are still a thing in the future that is.


On a sidenote:  Old physical books, newspapers, etc. that have not been tainted by modern revisionists are far more trustworthy IMHO than digital format will ever be.  But that's just my somewhat educated opinion. 

I would love for that to not be the case, but there's so much that's going digital even with regards to newly-published content on older topics that digital sources are virtually unavoidable anymore
The key to surviving this site is to not say something which ends up as someone's tag line - Steelgrave

"their citizens (all of them counted as such) glorified their mythology of 'rights'...and lost track of their duties. No nation, so constituted, can endure." Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers

Offline Gusington

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Re: Sources
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2019, 11:27:37 AM »
^Depends on who wrote those books in the first place, W8! 😎
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Offline Tripoli

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Re: Sources
« Reply #13 on: August 12, 2019, 08:12:59 PM »
Thanks for all the input, guys. Pretty much confirms my thinking.

The article I'm referring to covers a particular battle during WWII and the forum post and wiki entries cited to do not appear to fall into any of the possible exceptions you all have noted.

Its still a good article, so I do not want to discount it entirely, but I am surprised that these kinds of sources were relied upon and they really jumped out at me leaving a less than favorable impression.

JH-Sometimes I've found little "factoids" on Wikipedia that I would love to use, but they are uncited, and so I can't.  In that case, I do a google search using the appropriate search terms for the factoid, and come across sources I can cite.  In some cases, I've found some really good sources using this technique.