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Website Evaluation: Overview

Some information from the internet may be inaccurate or unreliable. When using information from the internet for your coursework, evaluate the website to determine if it is credible and appropriate.

Quick Tips

Scan the perimeter of the page for information about the creators of the page, the purpose of the page, and when the page was last updated.  Look for links such as "About Us" or "Contact Us."

If you cannot find an author or publisher for the page you can try truncating the URL.  In the web address box, delete the end characters of the URL stopping just before each / (leave the backslash).  Then, press enter to see if you can learn more about the author or the origins/nature of the site providing the page.

Look at the domain name of websites. The domain name of the site can give you an indication of possible bias.  For example, a .com is, by definition, a commercial site so they may be trying to sell you something.  This is not to say that all or even most .coms are unreliable because that is certainly not true. 

  •  Government sites: .gov or .mil
  •  Educational sites: .edu but note that these can also include personal  student and faculty pages
  •  Nonprofit sites: .org 
  •  Commercial sites: com

 Pay attention to the style of the language used on the site.  Is it balanced and professional with both sides of the issue covered, or does the language seem inflammatory or biased?

Some of our databases like CQ Researcher and Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center include a selection of recommended websites for each topic.

Have you checked your assignment? Some faculty have requirements for using websites for research.

 

What are Credible Websites

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Website Evaluation Criteria

The internet has made it possible for anyone to publish web pages. Most websites have not undergone a review process for inclusion in a collection, whereas the resources in the Library’s subscription databases have. For these reasons, you should closely evaluate any Internet resources you find to ensure they contain balanced, factual information. Reliable internet resources may include peer reviewed journal articles, government reports, conference papers, industry and professional standards, scientific papers, news reports, and quick facts and figures.

However, keep in mind that just because a website is well presented does not mean that it contains accurate information. Here are some criteria you can look for in Internet resources to determine whether or not they are reliable sources of information. By addressing the questions below, you can reasonably determine if an Internet resource is a reliable source of information.

  • Can you identify the author of an Internet resource? If so, what do you know about this author's education, work history, affiliations, additional publications, etc.?
  • Can you find the date the Internet resource was last updated or published?
  • Does the Internet resource cite the work of others?
  • Does the content of the resource seem balanced and scholarly, or is it biased?
  • Who published the Internet resource? Was the web page published by a business, university, government organization, or professional association?
  • What is the intended audience for the Internet resource? Is it appropriate for university level research? Or is it geared toward secondary education or a more general audience?
  • What is the domain of the Internet resource? If it ends in .org, .gov, or .edu it is more likely to be a scholarly source. If it ends in .com or .net it is less likely to be a scholarly source.

Purdue Owl-Citing Electionic Sources:Web Documents

Limit by Domain

Look for the "site or domain" box in Google's Advanced Search options and enter the domain you'd like to search, as shown below.

Screenshot of Google Advanced Search with the "site or domain" field highlighted.

You can also do this by adding site:.edu (or .org, .gov, etc) to the end of your search terms in any Google search box. For example, to find articles about “ethical leadership” published on government websites, enter the terms "ethical leadership" site:.gov, as shown below.

Google basic search screen showing terms "ethical leadership: site:.gov