When we look at the Peak Oil on the web, we can click through pages of Google links or pages of academic databases, but neither will do you any good unless you can identify the site’s reliability. Before citing an article or periodical on Peak Oil or a similar topic, its important to remember the characteristics John R. Henderson, a librarian at Ithaca College identifies when talking about reliable websites vs. straight junk.
Let’s look at five individual sites that all discuss Peak Oil:
- Peak Oil – True or False: This site offers a lot of different information regarding the rise and fall of Peak Oil starting in the 1940s. The information piece offers a couple pages of good material, or so you’d think. This site deserves a closer look. From the URL we can see that the website is a (.org) domain, which means “Counter Currents” is an organization. It seems as though the site focuses on current issues surrounding humanity. However, as much as I want to tip my cap and give the site my seal of approval, I just can’t. Here’s why:
- There are no links to any of the factual data Stephen Lendman presented. If you’re going to quote someone over the web, make sure there links included that cite your sources and provide the reader with confidence in your analysis. Even though this is a researched piece of writing, it doesn’t make me want to use this as a source for my research essay.
- Who exactly is Stephen Lendman? He lives in Chicago and has his own blog. Does this make him a viable primary source? No.
- Lendman spends half his writing space quoting M. King Hubbert, but where are the links to validate his source? As much as I enjoyed the content, I know there is better.
The Oil Drum: This site offers some content that could be used as a primary source. The URL is (a .com) domain and the site itself looks to be a forum open to many comments. But here is why I think this could be a valid resource:
The entire site is dedicated to Oil, Energy and our future and the post was part of a three part series that discussed the issue.
- Euan Mearns uses graphics from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which is a valid site based out of the UK with an official logo and company listing.
- Mearns provides links to other government agencies that deal with oil policy and regulation. Mearns also uses links from newspaper articles showing that he put time in to his post and information that was being presented.
- 5 Reasons To Question “Peak Oil” Theory: This is an easy one, its not a reliable source at all considering the link is dead. Don’t expect anything good to come from a broken link in any circumstance whether it be a direct link or an aggregated link in another post. A good informant would take the time to make sure the link was live.
- Peak Oil is Snake Oil!: This is an article written in the Huffington Post by Raymond J. Learsy, who is the author of “Over a Barrel: Breaking Oil’s Grip on our Future.” This news piece is a tossup for a few reasons. Let me elaborate:
The writer has credentials and a history of writing on the topic, which is good.
- He also includes links to New York Times articles and some solid analysis while quoting the Wall Street Journal, which validates his piece. However, he is lacking any real connection to Hubbert and the theory he proposed back during the mid-1900s.
- We can also see that he writes for a respected newspaper-blogging site.
- But there lies the issue, the article is clouded with factual content and opinion. Someone skimming this article for ammunition for another scholarly piece should be weary, and extremely cautious not to quote Learsy’s opinion.
- The End of the World as You Know It: This is a primary source! Just from skimming, we can tell. Here’s why:
Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world securities at Hampshire College and the author of “Resource Wars” and “Blood and Oil.” This easy is a preview of his upcoming book.
- Klare spits out factual data that his backed up via aggregated links and statistical numbers. His legitimacy is validated based on his analysis of Peak Oil. This essay also coincides with his book topic
- The essay is a scholarly piece, the opinion is based on fact. Klare provides accurate data to support his claims and makes assumptions based on the data, not his opinion.
So there you have it, a brief analysis on how to determine whether web content is reliable based on John Henderson’s characteristics for reliable web sources. Always remember to check sources, credentials, links, relevancy (date published) and distribution method (journal, newspaper article, dissertation, blog post). By doing this, you’ll make your research papers a lot easier to write because you’re providing accurate sources and facts.