Making URLs to last forever…

…by Clarissa / from Indonesia / studies Nursing / 2nd year of PhD

This summer I had the opportunity to intern for The Reference Rot in Theses: a HiberActive Pilot project. I was very excited when I got the post offer because this project is developed by EDINA, a centre for digital expertise based in Information Services at the University of Edinburgh. I felt like I was suddenly a very tech-savvy student!

EDITED Clarissa My Summer Internship Experience Photo 1.JPG
Argyle House, where EDINA is based.

Firstly, I will explain to you a bit about what ‘reference rot’ is. Have you ever experienced a time when you try to access a web page, but you see these messages on the screen: “Error 404 Page Not Found” or “The content of this website has been moved to…”? This issue usually happens because the link is ‘Or you may find the page but realise that the content has changed significantly (an issue called ‘content drift’). This can be a problem for a student like me when writing a paper and including a link in my reference list – the future readers won’t be able to access the source material that supports my ideas.

The project I’ve been working on created Site2Cite, a tool that can be used to prevent this by generating a sort of ‘immortal’ link. Simply put, this is how the tool works: (1) you enter a URL of the website that you would like to cite, (2) the tool will archive the website content, and (3) you will receive ‘well-preserved’ URLs that includes an archive copy so it will not ‘rot’. You can include these ‘well-preserved’ links in your reference list and you can be sure that you or the readers of your work can access the links anytime in the future.

EDITED Clarissa My Summer Internship Experience Photo 3
The Site2Cite homepage.

My first task in the internship was interviewing PhD students about their experience in managing references. I then made the reports of the interviews and attended meetings where I had the chance to report my progress and discuss the project with the project team. I also did some Site2Cite usability testing with two PhD students. They were asked to use the beta version of the tool and gave us their valuable opinions and feedback on how to improve the design and functionality. My last job was to make a summary of the interviews and the usability testing.

Overall, my internship experience has been amazing. I have enjoyed learning what is happening behind the scenes of technology development at the university. I have gained more confidence and interviewing skills (which I can surely use when I’m doing my fieldwork for my PhD research). Also, since I was working with four other student interns from different schools, I have made new friends!

EDITED Clarissa My Summer Intership Experiences Photo 2
I also had meetings in a room with this view of Edinburgh castle – not too bad for a background!

Lastly, I have some tips for those who are interesting in finding an internship during your study at the University of Edinburgh:

  1. Check MyCareerHub regularly.

You can check if there are internship opportunities from MyCareerHub. For PhD internships, just type in the search box: Employ.ed for PhDs.

  1. You never know if you never try.

Getting an intern post is highly competitive. I know this well because I had to apply for more than one intern job before I finally got this one. If you don’t succeed at first, it’s fine – try again and perhaps the next time will be the one!


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