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Watch Out for Content Farms!
A content farm is a website that contains very large quantities of content, typically of low quality or aggregated from other sites, generated solely to ensure that it appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.
When doing research you need to stay away from content farms, since these sites will often consist entirely of plagiarized material of questionable value. Check out the example below.
World Culture Encyclopedia
A site consisting entirely of plagiarized material related to countries and cultures; sponsored by Advameg, a data aggregation company
What's suspicious about this site?
- The letter spacing indicates that they have copy-pasted from pdf files, which tends to create extra spaces within words. . This would tend to imply that the material is stolen from online encyclopedias, dubious education business sites, and other commercial sites.
- The statistics and population data in individual articles is from the mid- to late-1990s - more than fifteen years old.
- If you try a search on a partial quote from an article, for example, the phrase "the word "Afghan" historically has been used to designate the members of an ethnic group also called the Pashtuns" from the Afghanistan article, you will get the 'echo-chamber' effect: lots of 'spammy' sites with the exact same quote.
- The site's plagiarized content is on a commonly searched curriculum topic (countries and cultures), but seems to exist for the owner only as a source of revenue. Pages feature lots of ads in the most prominent places on each page.
- And if that's not enough to make you suspicious...the owner of the site, Advamet, Inc., has a 'F' rating from the Better Business Bureau!
"Content Farm." Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford UP, n.d. Web. 20 Aug. 2015.
Does this site have authority?
Click on the link to this site and take some time to look around.
Dihydrogen Monoxide Research
Site for the Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Division (DMRD) in Newark, Delaware. The goal of this site is "to provide an unbiased data clearinghouse and a forum for public discussion" of the "controversy surrounding dihydrogen monoxide."
What do you think? Do you think this site includes authoritative information? Does the link to current research give any information that would be useful to quote in a research paper?
Evaluating the DHMO website
A slideshow that explains how to evaluate the DHMO website for authority, from the Edith Cowan University Library in Perth, Australia. (No sound.)
Beware! Information may look accurate but could in fact be completely fabricated! Always check the information you are using comes from an authoritative source.