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In the context of writing in college, material from much of the Internet is less reliable than print sources because it’s hard to tell who wrote or posted it. , the essence of academic scholarship is a conversation among authors.
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.
When someone speaks in public, participates in an interview, or publishes a piece of writing, he or she implicitly agrees that other people may refer to this material in research.
But some electronic sources blur the line between public and private communication.
It’s often useful to identify your source in the body of your paper (and not just in your citation or footnote); this identification is especially important when you use material from the Internet.
If you give a sense of what kind of Web source you’re using, the reader will be better able to understand the context of your evidence.
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.
(Private communications also have a different force of authority than deliberately published material; see Scholarly vs.
Popular Sources for more information.) If in doubt about whether a given text should be considered public or private, we urge you to check with the original author before quoting it in your own work.