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Ethical Documentation - Academic Integrity in Research & Writing: Internet Resources & Wikipedia

Online Information in Writing & Citing

There are a variety of places where health care professionals can find information for their research, patient care, and educational needs. Some information resources are available only through a subscription or license. Information in this category may only be accessible from a publishers, a library, your institution or place of employment, your professional membership, or by individual purchase.

However, in the health sciences, a tremendous amount of information is freely available thanks to the federal government, state agencies, or nonprofit organizations. Examples you may already be familiar with include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, your state Department of Public Health, or the American Cancer Association.

The key points regarding internet based information are:

  1. You always need to give credit to the individual or organization whose factual or creative work you have utilized.  “Free on the internet” does not mean free for you to use without attribution.
  2. Your ability to download a document or image does not meant that you necessarily have permission to reuse the work without express permission by the original author or creator of the work.  
  3. Government documents or reports  (infographics, statistical summaries, charts, brochures, factbooks, etc.) are generally considered to be in the public domain. That means you generally have permission to utilize the content without first ccontacting the agency for permission. However, you still need to cite government authored resource.
  4. As will all information, evaluate it for accuracy! If you have any questions about the credibility of a source, contact the library.

What about Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is a helpful and interesting tool. But it is not considered a scholarly resource.  It's okay to use Wikipedia as a starting point if you don't know anything about a topic, and it can in some instances be useful to explore the references listed at the end of a Wikipedia article if you want to learn more. 

If you need an introductory resource to help you understand a concept, try a textbook - really!  A book published by a reputable scientific publisher has undergone some kind of peer review or editing process prior to publication.  Or you can use a professional resource like UptoDate or 5 Minute Consult.

The library has a great collection of print and ebooks to help you in your professional studies. To see what resources are available, search the library's DMU Discovery.

How Wikipedia Became a Trusted Source for COVID-19 Information

CBS Sunday Morning. (2020 May 24). How Wikipedia became a trusted source for COVID-19 information [Video].

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