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The Western Civilization Webography project provides student reviews of websites related to the history of Western Civilization.
Those interested in Western Civilization find the Internet to be both helpful and frustrating. On the one hand the Web offers us unparalleled access to information about the history of the West, but on the other, trying to deal with the amount of information available online is like trying to drink from a fire hydrant. A simple Google search using “Western Civilization” and “history” as keywords results in just over 375,000 websites, and if “primary sources” is added to that search string Google returns more than 10,000 URLs. What if, instead, you were able to begin your search for sources from the history of Western Civilization with pre-screened and annotated websites?
The Webography Project provides just such a resource to its users. Each website in the Project database has been reviewed by one or more students, and has a rating attached to it, based upon a series of criteria, including the site's accuracy, currency, and objectivity. In addition, each record includes a brief word annotation, describing the contents of the site and its strengths and weaknesses. All records are fully searchable, either by keyword or according to a pre-determined scheme.
The project addresses several of the issues raised by the increasing use by undergraduate students of web-based sources for their research and writing. Too often students use web-based sources uncritically or at least without sufficient regard for the quality of the sources they find on the web. When they use sources of dubious value, instructors and students end up dissatisfied--the instructors with the quality of their students' work, and the students with their grades.
But what if both students and instructors embraced the sources available on the web, making the analysis of these sources a central problem in a course? The Webography Project provides a vehicle for just that sort of approach to teaching and learning.