When people hear the word “blog”, different things may come to mind.
For example, some people may still think of blogs as online personal diaries. However, there is much more to it than that. Google offers this definition:
“a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style”
Basically, a blog could be just about any article you read on the internet. If someone tells me they don’t read blogs, I ask them if they Google things. If they say yes, then they read blogs.
In fact, many businesses incorporate blogs on their website to help people find them through SEO, or search engine optimization.
For example, a veterinary hospital might offer a blog about pet care to help attract new clients or answer frequently asked questions. Therefore, blogs may be written by experts working in specific fields of interest.
It’s also true that a blog itself may be its own small business. A blog has the ability to make money through advertising and affiliate marketing.
According to our friends at Rank IQ, professional bloggers can make between $7,500 to $25,000 per month – or more. The highest-earning niches are food, finance, mom/lifestyle and travel, but blogs can cover a wide variety of topics.
And, since it’s the internet, just about anyone who can build a website can technically own a blog.
So it’s true that blog posts can be written by quality professionals, but it’s just as true that they can be written by amateurs who are not beholden to fact-checking.
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So are blogs credible sources?
It depends. Sometimes blogs are credible sources, and sometimes they are not.
This could come as a bit of a surprise, but the internet is prone to containing false information or inaccuracies. And depending on the subject matter, blogs may contain personal views that can be quite subjective.
How do you know if a source is credible?
If you’re asking whether or not a blog is credible, you must also consider the topic at hand, the author and the intent of the article.
Let’s start with considering the topic and the varying risk if the information is incorrect. Are you trying to find a recipe for dinner? Maybe the worst thing that could happen is wasting a few groceries if you’re following a bad recipe.
But if you’re Googling a medical question, bad information could be much more dangerous.
In that case, you need to take a look at the author’s credentials. Actually, scratch that. Maybe just make a doctor’s appointment.
But blogs will almost always list an author. Is the author an expert in their field? If we’re using the medical example, are they an MD or DO? And if so, are you sure they are who they say they are?
Some credible bloggers may have a staff of professional journalists or experts. And sometimes a blogger is simply offering personal tips on getting the most out of your Disney vacation.
If they are writing their own opinion or offering tips from their own first-hand experience, a blog can be like getting advice from a friend. Do your friends always have good advice? Sometimes!
I am in the blogging world, so I know bloggers who care deeply about what they write, have professional backgrounds and fact-check everything they do. But I also know of bloggers who use AI writing tools and publish as many posts as quickly as they can without scrutinizing the writing quality.
Wait, AI writing tools?
Yes. Sometimes, the author does not even have to be human at all. There are now AI writing tools that help bloggers quickly publish new posts that are written by a bot, using snippets from other articles and mixing them up enough to pass plagiarism checks. It’s actually against Google’s guidelines, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Also, consider the intent of the article. Take a closer look and see if the author trying is trying to sell you a product. If the blogger is using affiliate marketing, they may be trying to make a sale, and of course, you should consider potential bias.
Again, some bloggers may really believe in the product they are selling. You simply have to use your best judgment.
Last but not least, you may also want to consider the date of publication and whether or not the blog contains outdated information.
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Can blogs be used as references in research?
While it’s true that blogs can sometimes be useful resources with high-quality content, they are generally not considered good sources in academic writing or publishing.
The University of Cambridge cites these main reasons:
- Blogs are not peer-reviewed
- It may not be possible to verify the content
- The author may update the blog page without warning
- Blogs may be removed without warning
However, they also acknowledge that there could be cases in which researchers will want to use a blog as a source, in which case, they should use their best judgment to consider whether the blog is of sufficient quality and reliability.
What type of source are blogs?
Most of the time, a blog post will be a secondary source of information if they are summarizing or reviewing an idea or concept. In the news world, credible news sources will often cite where they are getting their information from.
A blog could be a primary source of information if it is written from a firsthand point of view.
How do you put references in a blog post?
Informal blogs will often link to a source within the text.
Some articles may include a list of references at the bottom, which will be marked by a citation. In this case, references should include the author, title of the post, title of the blog and URL.
For example, Wikipedia itself is not always considered a good source, but Wikipedia pages will offer a list of sources at the bottom of their articles – some of which could be reliable sources.
Do you think blogs are credible? Let me about your experience in the comments below.