Writing Help

Help Choosing a Topic | How to Choose Good Resources | How to Critically Analyze a Website

Help Choosing a Topic

If you are having trouble choosing a topic, here's a way to find one:

  1. Come to the library
  2. Find an index, dictionary, or encyclopedia that relates to your field.
  3. Scan the books to see what topics interest you.
  4. Use the online catalog or our online databases to find books or articles relating to your topic.
  5. Browse newspapers or magazines in the library for additional ideas.
  6. Ask a reference librarian if you're having trouble.

Choosing Good Resources

Webster University Library has a great guide to how to locate peer reviewed or scholarly resources and learn the difference between magazine and journal articles.

How to Critically Analyze a Web Site

There are several types of sites:

  1. Personal pages
  2. Promotional (to sell a product)
  3. "Current" --provides up-to-date information (i.e. news articles, etc.)
  4. Informational to share information on a particular topic or hobby
  5. Persuasive as propaganda to convert you to their point of view
  6. Instructional to teach a unit or course of study
  7. Registrational: to register for courses, information, production, etc
  8. Entertainment

Five evaluative guidelines for Web sites

  1. Authority
    1. Who is responsible for the page?
    2. What are their qualifications--can you verify them?
    3. Check the footer at the bottom of the page for author information.
  2. Currency
    1. Are the dates clear when the Web site was first created and last edited?
    2. Check the footer for information on when the site was last edited.
    3. Check the content (for news items, etc.) to see if the site is being actively maintained
  3. Coverage
    1. What is the coverage of the site?
    2. Are there clear heading to illustrate an outline of the content?
    3. Is the navigation clear?
    4. Check the header for a clear title and Web site description
  4. Objectivity
    1. Are biases clearly stated?
    2. Are affiliations clear?
    3. Check the content for a statement of purpose (i.e. "about the site" or organization)
    4. Check to see the type of Web site and potential audience--entertainment sites are generally not good for information of a scientific nature. Science Web sites are not good for information on entertainment
    5. Check the domain (i.e. .gov .com .edu) to determine the organizational source of the Web site and how this reflects on the content type
  5. Accuracy
    1. Are sources of information and factual data listed and available for crosschecking?
    2. Check the content for accuracy of spelling, grammar, and facts.
    3. Check the content for a bibliography of other Web sites, print data, and other references

Page modified 7/15/14