Even though it references several million texts, this collection of web-based archives merely scratches the surface of the massive amount of material that’s freely available on the web. Remember, too, that the KPU library has invested heavily in searchable academic databases to which you have access as a student.
The selection principle for this gallery is that the sites listed should be free of cost, free of commercial advertisements, free (for the most part) of partisanship (though multiple sides are often presented), and free of copyright wherever possible. If you’re not bothered by ads, you’ll find a wealth of additional content, much of which will be very useful.
Finally, remember, just because these sites are free of charge and free of copyright doesn’t mean you don’t have to cite them appropriately if you end up using content from them in your writing. See the MLA Documentation tab for information on how to document electronic texts. You also need to be aware of any copyright restrictions on duplicating and redistributing content on these sites. These restrictions will usually be found at the site itself, but when in doubt, consult your college library staff.
Because these noncommercial, nonpartisan websites are sponsored by governmental and educational entities and organizations, they are not likely to disappear, but there are no guarantees. If links go dead, try your favorite search engine to see if the documents you’re seeking have been lodged elsewhere.
Gallery of Web-Based Texts
While a great number of the sources below have an American focus, we have added a few sites with a Canadian focus and will continue to add to this list.
Title: The Ad Council
Brief description: Includes an archive of more than sixty-five years of public service advertising campaigns in print, radio, and television media.
Possible uses: Analyses of rhetorical technique in advertising; studies requiring historical context; comparisons of commercial and public-service marketing.
Title: American Experience
Brief description: Full-length documentaries produced by the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), many available for viewing online, with additional resources provided at each film’s website.
Possible uses: Studies requiring historical context, comparisons of documentary and popular filmmaking, and comparisons of education and entertainment.
Title: Arts and Letters Daily
Brief description: A clearinghouse of web-based content (from magazines, newspapers, and blogs) on culture and current affairs sponsored by the Chronicle of Higher Education, updated daily, and archived from 1998 to the present.
Possible uses: Essays on contemporary topics; studies of the style and ideological cast of a particular commentator or columnist; generating ideas for possible topics for further research.
Title: The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy
Brief description: Yale University Law School’s collection of documents, including among many other items “Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents” (from which the demonstration text inSection 2.3 “Reading a Text Carefully and Closely” is taken).
Possible uses: Cross-disciplinary writing projects in history, religion, and political science; analyses of rhetorical and argumentative strategies.
Title: Big Questions Essay Series
Brief description: A growing collection from the nonprofit Templeton Foundation, made up of essays by writers from different disciplines and backgrounds on several “big questions” (about a dozen essays per question).
Possible uses: Essay assignments on “great questions” requiring citation of conflicting sources; exercises on exploring alternative points of view; analyses of how biases, assumptions, and implications affect argument and rhetoric.
Title: C-SPAN Video Library
Brief description: An archive of more than 160,000 hours of digitized video programming on C-SPAN since 1987, including thousands of political debates and campaign ads; also applicable for the education category (see library for hundreds of commencement addresses).
Possible uses: Analyses of political advertising and comparisons with other kinds of commercials; analytical summaries of ideological positions along the American political spectrum from 1987 to the present; analyses of argumentative technique in political debates.
Title: David Suzuki Foundation
Brief description: a collection of writing about environmental issues with a Canadian focus.
Title: From Revolution to Reconstruction…and What Happened Afterwards
Brief description: A collection of documents from American history from the colonial period to the present, sponsored by the United States Information Agency (USIA).
Possible uses: Analyses of rhetorical and argumentative strategies of documents in American history and government.
Brief description: More than seventy-five years of polling data on myriad subjects, with constant updates from contemporary polls.
Possible uses: Analyses of American political and social trends from the 1930s to the present; comparisons with contemporaneous, parallel polls from other organizations; political science studies of polling methodology.
Title: Google Books
Brief description: Includes not only in-copyright/in-print and in-copyright/out-of-print books for purchase but also out-of-copyright books as free downloads.
Possible uses: Access to free, out-of-print, out-of-copyright, older, book-length content for historical, sociological studies.
Title: The Internet Archive
Brief description: Created by The Internet Archive, a nonprofit organization founded in 1996 that is committed to preserving digitized materials, this collection includes not only websites in their original forms but also audio and video collections.
Possible uses: Historical analyses of websites since their inception; popular cultural analyses of film, television, radio, music, and advertising.
Title: The Living Room Candidate
Brief description: A collection of hundreds of television advertisements of presidential campaigns from 1952 to the present, sponsored and operated by the Museum of the Moving Image.
Possible uses: Analyses of the rhetoric of political television advertising across time (from 1952 to the present); comparisons between television and print advertising in politics; summaries of political party positions and ideologies.
Title: MIT Open Courseware
Brief description: One of the best collections of university lectures on the web, along with Yale’s (see Open Yale Courses).
Possible uses: Completely free access to complete lecture-based courses from some of the best professors on earth in almost every conceivable university subject.
Title: The National Archives Experience: Docs Teach
Brief description: Classroom activities, reading and writing assignments accompanied by document collections from the National Archives, each concentrating on a specific historical era.
Possible uses: Ready-made reading and writing assignment sequences of primary documents from American history; cross-disciplinary writing projects in history, religion, political science, and cultural geography.
Title: National Film Board Canada
Brief description: Canada’s public producer and distributor, and online Screening Room. The site offers free streaming of documentary and animated films as well as interactive stories, all of which explore the world we live in from a Canadian point of view.
Title: The Online Books Page
Brief description: A collection of more than forty thousand free books, as well as an extensive e-archive of e-archives (see Archives and Indexes/General), edited by John Mark Ockerbloom at the University of Pennsylvania since 1993.
Possible uses: Access to free, out-of-print, out-of-copyright, older, book-length content for historical, sociological studies; cross-disciplinary writing projects in history, religion, political science, and cultural geography.
Title: Open Yale Courses
Brief description: One of the best collections of university lectures on the web, along with MIT’s (see MIT Open Courseware).
Possible uses: Completely free access to complete lecture-based courses from some of the best professors on earth in almost every conceivable subject.
Title: Project Gutenberg
Brief description: The most established collection of more than thirty-three thousand book-length works originally published in paper form, digitized and downloadable in a variety of formats, and free of American copyright.
Possible uses: Analyses of older, book-length literary texts; studies of specific historical and cultural phenomena.
Title: the Poetry Foundation
Brief description: Thousands of poems and poetry-related material collected into a searchable archive, managed and operated by the Poetry Foundation.
Possible uses: Analyses of poems and poetic language; studies of specific themes as expressed through the humanities.
Title: The Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS): Collections Search Center
Brief description: A vast collection of more than 4.6 million books, manuscripts, periodicals, and other materials from the various museums, archives, and libraries of the Smithsonian Institution.
Possible uses: Historical and rhetorical analyses of texts and resources in a variety of disciplines in the arts and sciences.
Title: This I Believe
Brief description: A regular feature of National Public Radio (NPR) since 2006, a series of personal essays read aloud on a variety of topics, archived together with 1950s-era essays from a program of the same name hosted by Edward R. Murrow.
Possible uses: Comparisons of social issues across two historical periods (e.g., 2006 to the present vs. the 1950s); comparisons between the personal essay and other genres of exposition and exploration; comparisons between oral and written texts.
Title: The US Census Bureau
Brief description: A trove of demographic statistics and surveys with a variety of themes from the most recent census and those conducted previously.
Possible uses: Summaries, reports, and causal analyses of demographic trends in American society; evaluations of the uses of statistics as evidence; social science studies of polling methodology.
- The web affords writing students and instructors countless opportunities to engage with texts in a variety of media and genres.
- The vast majority of web-based texts are available free of charge. A significant minority of publicly and privately funded sites are also free of advertisement and often free of copyright.
- Your status as a college student also puts you in a great position to make use of any online library databases to which your college subscribes.
- Even though web texts are easily accessible, they still need to be documented appropriately when used as part of a writing project.