Monday, February 13, 2017

Research Tip: What is “Permanent” Online?

Websites “disappear” for any number of reasons. Presidential transitions, general link rot, or site design errors can all contribute to Internet content vanishing. What’s a researcher to do? Consider whether you can find a permanent url (also referred to as a “purl”) for the website; adding them to citations is becoming an increasingly common practice for authors who cite online content. In fact, the Moritz Law Library provides access to, a tool for creating an archived document with a permanent url. If you are reading a law review article, for example, and it links to content that seems to no longer exist, consider searching Lexis Advance, Westlaw, or HeinOnline for the source/URL to see whether another scholar used to preserve the web page’s content. If you are curious about using for your own scholarship, please speak with one of the law librarians.

Here is an example of the use of (a “purl”) in a law review citation:
  • See Kathleen Short, U.S. Census Bureau, The Research Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2010, at 12 tbl.5 (2011), available at http://, archived at (finding the supplemental poverty measures for Latinos at 28.2%, blacks at 25.4%, and whites at 14.3%).
Second, you can also use the Internet Archive to find content that is no longer available. For example, here is a document that formerly appeared on “A Historic Commitment to Protecting the Environment and Addressing the Impacts of Climate Change.” Though now gone, the document was archived a number of times, including on January 20, 2017. Copy and paste the url in question into the search bar to see available archive dates. If you’d like to explore archived government websites, see the End of Term Web Archive.

Finally, if you’ve had your fill of the Internet’s ephemerality altogether and just want good old fashioned news (but still can’t quite take subscribing to a print newspaper), consider consulting Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, a digital archive of U.S. newspapers from 1789-1924, and the product of a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress. Of particular local interest, you can consult a variety of old Ohio newspapers including The Organ of the Temperance Reform, The Toiler, or Spirit of the Times.