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Kate Gustafson's W131 Online Class Guide

This guide supports Professor Gustafson's online English W131 class with research.

Websites Overview

Compared to other options like books and journal articles, websites are rarely a good source for research information. However, there are some occasions in which they can be useful. Pros and cons of using websites are listed in the next box. If you decide to use websites after reading this information, please refer to the "Evaluating Websites" page for information on ensuring its validity.

Website Pros and Cons




  • Updates allow for the most current information.
  • Might offer meaningful primary source content (e.g. interviews, raw data, etc).
  • Exploration of websites such as message boards or those dedicated to a subject can lead to discovery of additional academic resources.

  • Newspapers and similar sources might mention current research and events that can be pursued as research topics.
  • Some websites may cover topics which have received little or no academic research.


  • Websites can lead to incorrect or different information when they expire or receive new owners.
    • Example: an expired site leading to advertising.
  • Failure to update can lead to outdated, and therefore incorrect, information while appearing to be current.
  • Often presents only one perspective on a subject, with little to no oversight by other people and entities in that field.
  • Sources shared on websites may be biased - watch out for circular reporting.
  • Website owners can falsely claim to represent a person or organization.
  • Changes to links on websites can lead to "broken" links - the information exists but is at a different location.
  • Impossible or difficult to find the information again on a different website if that website shuts down.