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BSN Program: Documenting Resources

Information for students in and about the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program

Why evaluate websites?

When searching for information on the web, you need to be critical. Think about this:

  • On the "free web" anyone can post information, which can be unreliable and inaccurate.
  • The amount of information online can be overwhelming. There are over 346 million websites in existence as of June 2011.
  • When searching the web, you get a lot of results, many of which may not be relevant.
  • Many websites may have an agenda, or may be trying to sell you something.
  • Search results bring varying results, only some of which may be relevant to your research.
  • Scholarly sources are usually not available on the "free web". They are located primarily in library databases. And as a Polk State College student, you have free access to all of our databases!

What about the Web?

Despite the hype, information on the Internet can often be inaccurate, out of date, misleading, or just plain wrong.  Always think critically when using the open WWW for scholarly research or use sites referenced or recommended by acknowledged experts in the fields being researched.

Thinking Critically About World Wide Web Resources

UCLA Libraries 

Hoax? Scholarly Research? Personal Opinion? You Decide!

Media Awareness Network

Domain names

The URLs for a website can tell you a lot about the purposes of a website.

.com = a commercial site

.net = a network provider

.org = an organization

.edu = education (school, college or university)

.mil = military website

.gov = government website

NOTE: .com, .net, and .org websites are LESS regulated, meaning anyone can register for a website with that domain.

.edu, .mil, and .gov sites are MORE regulated, and tend to be more reliable.

Links for Documenting Sources

Style Guides and Manuals for Writing Using APA Style

The American Psychological Association APA  Frequently asked questions by the publishers of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.  APA style is most often used in the social sciences (sociology, psychology, anthropology, geography, etc.) and the natural sciences and medicine.
The Basics of APA Style This short video presentation discusses all aspects of APA publication style.  It is a product of the  APA. 
Bedford St Martins - Citing Electronic Resources - APA
Diana Hacker - Research and Documentation
Online Writing Lab (OWL) Purdue University --  APA
How to Recognize Plagiarism  Indiana University -- A tutorial to help you recognize and avoid plagiarism from Indiana University

Questions to ask when evaluating websites

When doing research, you should use a variety of sources such as books, articles from newspapers, magazines, or journals, and websites. To ensure you are including only valid information in your research, evaluate your sources using the criteria below.

Criteria Questions to Ask

Authority / Credibility
Determining the author for a source is important in deciding whether information is credible. The author should show some evidence of being knowledgeable, reliable and truthful.

  • Who is the author (person, company, or organization)?
  • Does the source provide any information that leads you to believe the author is an expert on the topic?
  • Can you describe the author's background (experience, education, knowledge)?
  • Does the author provide citations? Do you think they are reputable?

The source should contain accurate and up-to-date information that can be verified by other sources.

  • Can facts or statistics be verified through another source?
  • Based on your knowledge, does the information seem accurate? Does it match the information found in other sources?
  • Are there spelling or grammatical errors?

Scope / Relevance
It is important that the source meets the information needs and requirements of your research assignment.

  • Does the source cover your topic comprehensively or does it cover only one aspect?
  • To what extent does the source answer your research question?
  • Is the source considered popular or scholarly?
  • Is the terminology and language used easy to understand?
Currency / Date
Some written works are ageless (e.g., classic literature) while others (e.g., technological news) become outdated quickly. It is important to determine if currency is pertinent to your research.
  • When was the source written and published?
  • Has the information been updated recently?
  • Is currency pertinent to your research?
Objectivity / Bias / Reliability
Every author has an opinion. Recognizing this is instrumental in determining if the information presented is objective or biased. 
  • What is the purpose or motive for the source (educational, commercial, entertainment, promotional, etc.)?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the author pretending to be objective, but really trying to persuade, promote or sell something?

Style / Functionality
Style and functionality may be of lesser concern. However, if the source is not well-organized, its value is diminished.

  • Is the source well-written and organized?
  • To what extent is it professional looking?
  • If it is a website, can you navigate around easily?
  • If it is a website, are links broken?

U.S. Copyright Law

U.S. copyright law is the purview of the Federal Government.  The governing statutes are codified as title 17 of the United States Code (17 USC).  The law assigns administration of copyright to the U.S. Copyright Office of the Library of Congress.  This agency provides official information and FAQ's regarding various applications of copyright.

Library of Congress, U.S. Copyright Office (

COPYRIGHT AND FAIR USE:  While authors and creators retain rights to permit or not permit copying and/or distribution of their creative works, the U.S. Copyright law recognizes certain circumstances in which reproduction and use is permissible.  The use of copyrighted materials for educational purposes is one of these circumstances.  Section 107-118 of the U.S. Copyright Act provides guidelines for "fair use" of copyrighted materials for educational purposes.

Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States, 1 January 2013
Cornell University Libraries

T.E.A.C.H. Act (Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act) governs the use of copyrighted materials in online courses.  

Central Michigan University Copyright Website

OTHER RESOURCES:  There are numerous resources available which provide information and answers to copyright related questions.  Here are several resources you may consult for further information.  Please keep in mind that while PSC librarians have some knowledge of copyright law, we are not licensed attorneys and as such can only provide you with our opinions on the legality of an intended use of copyrighted material.  Such judgment is governed by Polk State College Procedure 4004 and your own informed judgment on the matter. - Gary Becker's copyright information Web page.  Mr. Becker is a librarian and is recognized by the American Bar Association as an expert on copyright.  Mr. Becker frequently provides training on copyright to Florida librarians and educators. - Distance Education Clearinghouse, Intellectual Property and Copyright page. - Copyright Bay - Fair Use Harbor. Fun tutorials designed to educate and entertain educators about the copyright law and fair use doctrines.  Not a substitute for an opinion by a licensed attorney. 

Why Cite?


Citation Wizard

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the University of Illinois.

Free Citation Creation Tools on the Web


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