Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?Who Watches the Watchmen?
We here at Infoplease like to encourage source literacy?that means the ability to sort out useful sourcesand to identify potential bias. We like to think of ourselves asimpartial to the data, but the info we useimpacts what we put on the web.
Usually, Infoplease pages will have their specific sources listed on the page. These will beunder the relevant data or at the bottom of the article. But, some of our older pages lack proper citation. We use the same sources over and over again. It canskip our minds to cite them as new. If you're ever curious about where a page sources its information from, email firstname.lastname@example.org contact us through the link in our footer. We'll make sure to include that information on the page in question.
In general, articles onInfoplease referencethe following:
The CIA World Factbook
The CIA World Factbook is a referencecontaining official figures and estimates for "267 world entities" comprising countries, disputed states, and more. All of our country profiles sourcefrom the World Factbook. We do this for two reasons. The first is that the World Factbook offers a wide range of data for all of the countries we profiles. The second is that weget pretty consistent information by pulling from the same source. We can expect the datato be similarly biased across the board.
The United Nations
The UN is about as official a source as one can find. The different specialized agencies of the UN gather all sorts of valuable data which they publish annually. We refer to these agencies all across the site. We use these sources in pages comparing countriesor discussing global statistics. We reference UNESCO when discussing world culture and heritage. The different agencies are listed below.
- Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
- International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
- International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
- International Labour Organization (ILO)
- International Maritime Organization (IMO)
- International Monetary Fund (IMF)
- International Telecommunications Union (ITU)
- United Nations Educational, Scientific and CulturalOrganization (UNESCO)
- United Nations Industrial Development Organization(UNIDO)
- Universal Postal Union (UPU)
- World Bank Group
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
- World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
- World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
You can learn more about the functions of these different agencies on the official UN website.
The U.S. Census Bureau
We often refer to the Census Bureausince itprovides the official countof people in the United States.Any time we're discussing the U.S. populationwe're likely pulling some numbers from either thecensus or the American Community Survey.We also host and reorganize the census results for your reading pleasure. The official data can behard to track down and parse.
Other U.S. Departments
Wealso refer to the published data and results of other U.S. agencies and departments. These groups present the official figures for the United States for everything from education to the economy. We might offer opposing data, but these official data are the most reliable. Regardless the policies and politics of the departments, people across the political spectrum generally agree on the basic information they gather and publish.Most of our U.S. pages will refer to these sources.
State Government Websites
Most state governments and state departments have official data weuse for our state profiles. Our state profiles and all of the pages related to those (e.g. state symbols)refer back tostate government websites. We'll sometimes use third party sites that compile rankings and information between the states. There are too many for us to list here. You can find these pages by searching "[State Name] [Department Name]".
The Library of Congress
The LOC is one of the largest archives in the world. They have all kinds of letters, books, and images. Whenever we're looking for a primary sourceor historicdocument, we'llcheck the LOC. We source from here for history pages andpages discussing culture in the U.S.
The Columbia Encyclopedia
The Columbia Encyclopedia is a brief one- or two-volume encyclopedia published by the Columbia University Press. Although encyclopedias aren't ideal sources for academic papers, they're very handy for quick reference or for simple informative articles like wehave here on Infoplease. We can consider it reliable since it comes from a respected university press. The Columbia Encyclopedia is hosted in its entiretyhere at Infoplease under "Encyclopedia."
The American Medical Association
The American Medical Association comprises a huge number of physicians and medical students in the United States. The AMAtypically represents the majority opinion of American doctors about different issues. We'll cite the AMA in articles about medicine, biology, or healthcare in the United States. When useful, we'll cite major dissenting opinions, but werely on the AMA to present the best-held medical opinions.
The Red Cross
The Red Cross publishes a great deal ofdata about disasters and global health. They consider reliable infoan important tool in their mission. The data published by the Red Cross is used by the UN and world governments toguiderelief efforts around the world.
Official Award Results
Awards always publicly announce their results. We often don't bother sourcing these because the source is self-evident; in a page discussing the year's Pulitzer winners, we obviously checked the official list of Pulitzer winners. We will link out to the official awards page if they have other useful information about the winners or the selection process.
Primary Sources in the Public Domain
When quoting historical figures or literary classics, we'll usually just link to the source we got our information from. This will typically be Project Gutenberg or various national archives. Sometimes when citing public domain sources, we'll just use a contextual citation (like saying what chapter of a book a quote is from)since theseareavailable to anyone who searches for them.Feel free to contact us if you're having trouble tracking downa quote or statistic.
Foreign Tourism Boards
When we're looking for cool or unusual things weoften go to different national or regional tourism boards. These organizations, whose job is drumming up interest in the places they represent, publish interesting facts that could attract (or inform) tourists. We'll use these for more esoteric articlesor when discussing local culture in our country profiles. Like with the state government pages, there are too many to list. If you search "[Place] tourism board" you'llfind results.
Other sources we use for more in-depth articles are:
Journals and Articles on JSTOR
JSTOR is a digital library compiling back issues (and some current issues) of hundreds of academic journals. We only cite JSTOR materials when discussing complicated subjects.The content of these journals istargeted more at experts than casual readers, but they collectively represent some of the most thorough and valuable scholarship available. A bit of a note on academic journals though; not all journals are equal. A good journal should have the support of respected scholars, and any papers they publish should be looked at by several (possibly dissenting)experts before publication. This process is meant to ensure that the basic level of scholarship is highand that the ideas being presented aren't based on flawed practices.
Cambridge and Oxford Histories
Infoplease doesn't want to take a side in the historic feud between these two illustrious universities. But, the Cambridge Histories are some of the mostrespected sources available; these mammoth tomesare written by teams of experts to offer a comprehensive overview of different historical subjects. These books aren't very accessible for non-academic readers in terms of complexity andcost. Oxford doesn't have a comparable product line. Rather, they have specific textslike the Oxford History of the British Empire. Wereference them when discussing historical subjects that are very complicated and nuanced. We do our best to make them accessible for the common reader.
You'll find that the world is chock full ofhistorical societiesdedicated to preserving the history of different places, people, and things. These historical societies host events andpublish information to educate the public about whatever their particular niche is. We source from historical societies within the realm of what we're writing about; e.g. if we're writing about the American Revolution, we can get lots of helpful info from our local historical associations like Historic New England.
Here are the facts and trivia that people are buzzing about.