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In my thesis, I would like to refer to a set of links. These are tools/calculators/etc. related to my subject, included to show that there is an interest in society at large in this topic.

I'm wondering what the best way would be to include them. Options include:

  • all (15+) in the running text is cumbersome;
  • a table with only one column looks just plain weird;
  • as references [1,3-5,76] breaks the flow of reading, and mixes them up with formal, cited literature sources. I would not suggest that these links are quality sources of anything, their simple existence is the point;
  • as an appendix diminishes their impact.
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    Welcome to Academia. I edited the title and tags of your question. Please feel free to edit it or roll it back to a previous version. – enthu Feb 20 '15 at 9:17
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    I noticed, this title is definitely better. Thanks :) – Jakob Buis Feb 20 '15 at 9:21
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Personally, I am in favour of adding them as references in the bibliography section.

With that said, I am from a CS subfield that is very close to the "real world" in a way that related work is almost always a motley mixture of peer-reviewed publications, books, newspaper articles, technical standard documents (such as those by W3C), and actual innovative software or websites (whose concepts were never formally published in a scientific venue), i.e. sources with a continuously varying degree of reliability. Consequently, trying to find a well-defined rule about what to add as a footnote and what to add as a bibliography reference is certain to give you headaches (and uncertain to lead to a useful and consistent result).

However, I can see a few (maybe a bit subjective) general advantages of using bibliography items rather than footnotes for links (in no particular order):

  • Bibliography items tend to more or less have a fixed format. Frequently, meta-information such as year of publication or author can be provided for web resources just as it can for anything else. When using a footnote, authors may be tempted to just provide the link and skip the meta-information that would be naturally included in a bibliography item, thereby foregoing both any due attribution and any information required to possibly locate the resource again, should the link die.
  • I have seen styleguides that generally forbid the use of footnotes (e.g. "Please do not use footnotes at all!"), but I have yet to see a styleguide that generally forbids the use of a bibliography. By not using any footnotes, your manuscript is one step closer to being agnostic of the final formatting used (and thus matches with the ideal of separating content from layout).
  • If the same web resource is mentioned twice throughout your document, there is absolutely no problem if the link is provided in a bibliography item, which is simply referenced twice in your text, if appropriate (e.g. if the two mentions are sufficiently far apart). If the link is in a footnote, on the other hand, things are not so clear:
    • The footnote can be added several times in the document. However, this means a waste of space, and it may also confuse readers who expect some new information when reading a new footnote for the first time, or who might wonder whether they are looking at a copy-and-paste error where a previously unmentioned link should be provided. Personally, I consider this "solution" downright bad style.
    • The same footnote can be pointed to several times. While this may be slightly cumbersome in some typesetting software, it is definitely feasible. However, it significantly increases the effort for finding the footnote (it might be on any page in the document), and the need to switch to another page than the one the reader is currently on kind of defeats the purpose of footnotes, anyway.
  • As a reader, I find keeping track of references, figure numbers, and table numbers that I still want to look into after finishing or while reading the current paragraph or section hard enough. There is no reason to add yet another independent list for footnote numbers.
  • Also as a reader, I have a certain expectation what amount of information I will find when following a pointer to additional information. For bibliography references, it is clear that the pointer points to an entire external document. For footnotes, I conversely prefer it to be clear that the pointer points to no more than one or two sentences worth of additional information (for which I do not need to search for and/or open another document).
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You could include them as an itemized list. Something like:

There is a lot of intest in topic XYZ, as can be seen from the following example websites:

It is basically a variation on the table with 1 column, but it looks less "weird".

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  • The first link is not a deep link, the other link is 404, which shows the issue of citable URLs. – koppor Jan 8 at 9:25
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I am personally more in favor of using footnotes for that purpose; I used this approach extensively in my theses.

You can use a web link for one of two purposes: to point to the website of something you mentioned, or as a reference to support a statement you make. In the latter case, a citation to a formal reference is preferred (with title, link, authorship date, and the date you last checked the link):

  • Text: McDonald’s toys are A, B, and C [42].
  • Reference: [42] “McDonald’s Happy Meal Toy Safety Facts,” McDonald’s Corporation, accessed July 19, 2008, xttp://www.mcdonalds.com/corp/about/factsheets.html.

But you are asking for the former case, for which I'd opt for something in the lines of:

  • Text: Social network websites like Facebook¹, Twitter² of LinkedIn³ are... .
  • Bottom of the page:
    ¹ http://www.facebook.com
    ² http://www.twitter.com
    ³ http://www.linkedin.com
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    The problem is that this is a "poor" thing. Web is not static and you ought to include the retrieval date to your reference. – yo' Feb 20 '15 at 14:43
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    That is absolutely true for the case where you cite a web link as a reference. When the web link is just additional information, I'd waive that formality (I guess it's kind of implicit that "this was Facebook's URL as of the date this document was written"). – d_l_b Feb 23 '15 at 11:41
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I did it like bibliography using a url shortener, this way the link is usable for those who read it in paper or electronic format and will avoid many issues with the bibliography format.

One thing you should consider is to include the lasta access data to the link (they can remove it).

Just in case, you can consider adding and annex where display the URLs unshortened whit their match, so if anyone can't access any of them can try to search by ieself in the web.

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