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Quality Web Sources: USING BLOGS

Evaluating Blogs

Blogs are not all equal in terms of the quality of information provided and should always be evaluated carefully. Look at the following attributes:

Relevance: information is relevant if it relates to the subject under investigation.

Accuracy: information is accurate if it is factually correct – or at least known not to be factually incorrect.

Clarity: information is clear if it is well written in accordance with the rules for clear and simple writing.

Brevity: information is brief if it is succinct and to-the-point

Depth/detail: information is detailed if sufficient information is provided to give the reader a clear understanding of the subject matter.

Timeliness: information is timely if it is up-to-date.

(Note that some of these attributes conflict – there is a tension between brevity and depth, and it is difficult to maintain a blog’s timeliness and accuracy.)

Collaborative features: most blogs support a number of collaborative features:

  • Readers can post comments.
  • Blogs may be jointly authored.
  • There are links to similar blogs (blogrolls).
  • Content can be syndicated via automated systems such as RSS.
  • Blogs can comment on (or re-circulate) content from other blogs.

Links: links are a major component of blogs. They can be made to other blogs or websites and that links may occur in the main text or in a list of links. Links are discussed extensively elsewhere in these notes (Sections 1.1.5 and 2).

See list on Quality Web Sources in this Guide.

How Are Blogs Different Than Other Information?

A blog is a special type of Website that is organized in “diary-like” entries in reverse chronological order. Blogs are generally organized around a particular theme and represent the work of a single author.

The word "blog" comes from a contraction of the words, "web log", and a blog in its most basic form is just that: a log of whatever the author chooses to write about. With blogs, one person (the blog's author, or "blogger") has control over the content. They can post whatever they want, when they want. Most blogs allow other users to post comments, but the blogger still has control over what gets posted and can choose to delete any comments they want.

Blogs have some similarities to news. In fact, many news organizations also have blogs. But blogs are generally more casual than many of forms of writing. Also, news organization have editors who closely monitor the content. Most blogs do not.

Scholars and Blogs

More and more scholars are beginning to publish their own on blogs.

Until scholars started blogging, the general reading public had very little access to the conversations of scholars, which are breeding grounds for many of the major ideas that eventually become groundbreaking research studies, articles, and books. These conversations happen at conferences during presentations, but also over coffee or beer near the conference sites, or in department offices, labs, and local hangouts.

Through blogs, scholars get a chance to let a broader public get a glimpse of ideas as they form, and see how scholars test things out in an environment more open and forgiving (sometimes) than a professional presentation or publication.

Blogs also allow scholars a venue for educating a broader public, especially on topics that are misunderstood or misrepresented in the the popular press.

Compared to traditional academic journals, which have existed for over 200 years, blogs are still relatively new, which means that only a few blogs are beginning to be included in article databases.

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