I'm writing a literature review for a project and due to the nature of the project (website and database) I haven't used any books etc. I have used a number of websites to get information on subjects such as hosting a website and a database using Azure, is it acceptable to use websites in a literature review?

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    Why do you think a website would NOT be acceptable in a literature review? – earthling Jan 27 '14 at 13:22
  • Because of the word literature. Look at the answers below – Ronan Jan 27 '14 at 14:27
  • I think the better question would be "How can I identify reasonable websites to use in my literature review?" At which point Penguin_Knight's answer is perfect. – earthling Jan 27 '14 at 15:25

Website or not website is not the point. Printed journal articles are favored over website because i) they are peer-reviewed, carrying some degree of authority, ii) they are archived and retrievable, with payment or free of charge, and iii) once published, the contents do not change until they are formally revised, rebuked, or retracted.

So, it would mean that when citing websites, a few more steps need to be done to increase their worthiness. First, you'd need to assess the credibility of the website and be able to critically evaluate the contents. In journal articles this step is done to some degree but in websites you're on your own. Second, you may need to do most of the archiving (including downloading, dating, and archiving the data sets you may download, or printing and dating website into PDFs, etc.) or use website archiving to save a cross-section of the websites. There are free services like http://perma.cc and http://www.webcitation.org available.

Once they are archived, in your paper, it is a good practice to cite both original link and the archived link as well as the date you accessed the original link. For details, consult the project leader or editor. Some journals specialized in publishing Internet-related research such as Journal of Medical Internet Research may also provide useful format-related examples in their guide to the authors.


You can definitely put into references the official user documentation of your web server and database engine, as this software have not been just invented by you from scratch.

While websites can also be used in references, it seems to me that you may need more in depth coverage. Try to Google and find some real publications. If the topic seems too broad, it should be some reviews. If there is a Wikipedia article, check which references it uses.

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