Today I will be covering the topic of usefulness of historical websites. This is an important issue as far too often people get to college, and they do not know what to do when it comes to conducting appropriate research to write papers. Some will go to the wrong websites and get a lot of bad information. Others will simply be doing this:

While today I will be covering only a few websites, I hope to give a few simple guidelines that can help ease this frustration.

To begin with, we will explore a Library of Congress website on the American Revolution, and the influence of religion thereof.. It is located at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel03.html. It is an excellent website with lots of links to various pages dealing with all angles of religion when it came to colonial America. This includes why people of various strands of Protestantism wanted to come to America, what religious life was like in America during the Revolutionary Era, how America came to define what it meant by separation of church and state, etc. It contains many visuals with captions detailing where the pictures came from. This is an example of a website that is very useful for anyone wanting to research the influence of religious beliefs in the American Revolution.

All of the content is verifiable and taken from trustworthy sources, cited beneath the pictures on the page. It is a government website to boot. So, the student reading any article from this website has a clear doorway to more primary sources from a trusted source: The U.S. Government itself! So, the data is going to be very reliable, and for any student researching the above topic, it will be very relevant and useful.

Now we will look at an example of the kind of websites to avoid if the facts are what is desired to be gathered. Politics today is one of the thorniest of thorny issues, and has been for as long as America has been in existence. Suppose today that a student were assigned a research paper on a current issue that has been in existence since the Bush years and continued into the Obama years. Well, googling anything about George W. Bush comes up with a number of hits that will tell you why Bush was a terrible President, not the least of which is found here: http://www.forwardprogressives.com/reminder-republicans-just-bad-things-george-w-bush/. Looking at the URL tells you exactly what kind of website you will find. It is an anti-Bush website, and the content makes clear not only that fact but also what political beliefs it wants you to reach. Naturally, the author wants you to be opposed to Bush and all Republicans for that matter, and in favor of Obama and all Democrats. Gathering facts from trusted webites, whether they support or oppose the Bush administration, would be much more honest research. It allows the student to form his/her own political beliefs without the hammering of a biased party, unlike the above website, which if left alone, would cause a student to necessarily become a liberal based on one website’s details. So, avoiding biased websites as primary sources of information is definitely a must when doing honest and thoughtful research. Websites like this only make for a person to research why he/she is a proponent of his/her political views, and frequently exaggerate the truth in order to support their own arguments (no matter which side of political debates one stands on).

Next we will observe a website dealing with basic facts of the Civil War, located at: http://www.civilwar.org/.

It is put together by a non-profit organization dedicated to saving historic Civil War battlefields. It provides a brief sketch of the Civil War and its history, including battles, length of years, etc. Unfortunately, it is not the best collection of facts. It serves more as a starting point to begin research on the Civil War. It can tell you some of the important battle sites of the Civil War, but it is not a huge source of information that could be useful in a paper due to lack of articles and more advanced material.

When evaluating the websites, it is going to be about, ultimately, who wrote the website and for what reason. The sites must use and be a credible source(s) that is/are as unbiased as possible. It must contain enough information to be really put to use for a paper. Some sites provide this, and others are simply a starting point with minimal information.

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