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There are millions of websites about religion. Here’s how to use them carefully.

  • Official websites of religions, denominations and religious organizations are generally reliable, though they are not always up to date. It’s generally best to check every fact and name you take from websites. Don’t forget even official sites can be hacked.
  • Be aware that critics often create websites with URLs similar to those of whatever group they’re criticizing, so always check who posts on the site. Never use information if you don’t know whose website it is.
  • Some professors keep their sites meticulously updated, while others don’t even list the names of their own books correctly. Double check anything you find.
  • If you’re seeking background on a topic or group — particularly if it involves religious beliefs or practices — read what’s online with the understanding that it may be wildly inaccurate.
  • Surf smartly. Read articles about effective ways to research online.
  • To gather background for a story, start with a LexisNexis, Dow Jones or similar database search of published articles, which are likely to be reasonably accurate. Then when you search the web, it will be easier to quickly discern which pages have inaccurate or biased information.
  • The internet is a good place to figure out different sides to an issue. If there is dissent or opposition, you’ll generally find it online, which can help guide your reporting.
  • Many publications and centers distribute free email newsletters with stories, updates and press releases about religion. This is an easy way to look for trends and to gather string for stories.
  • Many religious magazines post all or most of their content online, so you can read a variety of publications from a variety of religious viewpoints for free.
    • Wall Watchers, an independent source for ministry ratings, posts financial profiles of nonprofit ministries on its Ministry Watch site.