Is the Straight Dope a Valid Source?

Would a Straight Dope column be considered a valid source for an academic paper? Why or why not?

“Noted author, Cecil Adams, finds …”

I don’t see a problem with it.

For an academic paper? I would probably try to avoid it, mainly because it is a secondary source. However, Cecil and the Staff are usually very good about giving out information about the primary sources they use in preparing the column. You would be better served to use those primary sources in an academic paper.

Maybe you could argue it as a journalistic source since the column is published in a newspaper?

TJ555 The Golfer

Is the Straight Dope a Valid Source?
Would a Straight Dope column be considered a valid source for an academic paper? Why or why not?

An individual column I wouldnt hazard a guess, but it seems to me the SD boards present a adaquate cross section of the general society in its ideological and political leanings - except as a voice for the abject poor that have little or no accsess to a computer - so its probably as good as any source for guaging current public attitudes and opinions. But then again your professor may not think it so…At first glance it looks like a ribald adaptation of trival pursuit…which drew me to it initially.

I should clarify, I am not in school. I was just wondering.

I think for most papers the sources have to be academic, at least if you want a shot at getting published in an educational journal. I do agree with Hamlet, Cecil generally provides very good source material.

Define “academic paper.” For an academic journal article, as Meatros says, probably not (unless it was an article about independent newspaper columns or something). For your basic undergraduate research paper, you might get away with it, depending on the nature of the class and the assignment, although it’s probably safer to go directly to Cecil’s sources if you can locate them.

That said, when one of my freshman comp students cited a Straight Dope column, it made my day :slight_smile:

Since you seem to be a teacher- would you accept, from one of your students, a post you made-as a source :slight_smile: ?

You know, provided it had something to do with the topic.

That would depend on the post. I usually give students the following guidelines for determining the reliability of an Internet source:

  1. Is it published by a reputable organization that exercises control over the content? (A news article would count, but a message board on the same newspaper’s website wouldn’t.)

  2. Does the author give factual information to support his opinions, and does he tell you where this information comes from? Can you check his sources?

  3. Is the source free of inflammatory language, namecalling, etc.?

  4. Does the author have an obvious agenda (e.g., a political axe to grind or a product to sell), or does she seem reasonably unbiased?

I’ll usually accept sources that meet three out of four of the criteria. Obviously #1 is flat out on an anonymous, public-access message board, but it’s possible for a post here to meet the other three, and I’d accept it if it did.

I’ve often wondered how many college student were out there lurking. This would be a great source of information for any college paper.

You see, while we debate a subject around for three pages, often times the cites that get posted would be more than enough to fuel a research paper.

FTR, I am no longer a college student either.

I have used both columns and MB posts on a number of undergrad papers; I even turned a few professors on to the site. I never heard a complaint about it and always received good marks. But if “academic paper” means for publication in a journal, I would agree that it would not be a good idea.

Porpentine, if I should ever happen to say something one of your students wishes to use in an academic paper, I’d be glad to supply him or her with source material to the best of my ability.