The traditional and media formats may also exist online or in digital formats; these can be found through websites or in library databases. But there are other types of sources unique to the online environment that you might want to consider—or not consider—using. Below are just a few of them.
Wikis are a type of website that typically allow a community of users to create pages about different topics. The most popular one, and one that you are probably familiar with, is Wikipedia. These websites are usually very simple in appearance, and they are unique because they tend to support the idea of a community contributing to sharing information. With this idea, though, is the possibility for information to be shared without review or checked for reliability. Review the Fact-Checking chapter for further information about how to use Wikipedia effectively.
Blogs can house primary source material as they are often like online diaries for individuals. In contrast to wikis, blogs are typically written by a single person, and that individual is typically sharing their perspectives or experiences about a specific topic. These can be insightful, but they are usually very opinion driven. And just because someone has a blog about a topic does not make them an expert about that topic. It’s a good idea to do some research on the person, such as verifying what credentials they hold, where they got their education or training, where they work, etc., prior to determining whether this would be a wise choice to use in your research.
Podcasts continue to grow in popularity, and over half of Americans have listened to at least one podcast (Winn). If you have not experienced a podcast, they are similar to radio programs, except that you don’t have to listen to them live to enjoy them—they can be downloaded or streamed at a time convenient to the listener. You can listen to them in your car or from a capable device, like a smartphone. They can be focused on a specific subject area, contain interviews, or be a fictional series show. But just like blogs, podcasts can be hosted by anyone—and can be driven by opinions and biases; therefore, doing a little background research to determine their credentials is always wise.
This section includes material from the source book, Introduction to College Research, as well as the following:
Winn, Ross. “2021 Podcast Stats & Facts (New Research From April 2021).” Podcast Insights, Quandary Media, 10 April 2021.
Original material by book author Jamie Holmes.