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Research Process: Evaluate

How do I determine if a website is reliable?

Evaluating Websites and Other Sources


  • Who is the author?
  • Why was it written -- for what purpose, organization, or audience?
  • When was it written?
  • Does it include references or a works cited list?

If you cannot determine the credibility of the information you are using, especially from a website, it's best not to use it to factually support your argument. Using biased or inaccurate information in your paper can negatively impact your grade.

Article Databases vs. the Internet

 Library Databases

Internet Search Engines


Types of Information Retrieved

  • Scholarly journal articles
  • Popular magazine articles
  • Newspaper articles
  • Reference book articles (e.g., directories, encyclopedias)
  • Books
  • No sponsors or ads
  • Few free scholarly journal articles, popular magazine articles, and books.
  • Popular web sites (e.g., Wikipedia, Facebook)
  • Commercial web sites (e.g., eBay, Amazon)
  • Government, educational, and organizational web sites (e.g., Library of Congress, JSRCC)
  • Current news & information (e.g., CNN)
  • Email, chat (Gmail, AIM)
  • Many sponsors and ads.

When to Use

  • Best for college level research.
  • When you need to find credible information quickly.
  • Best for personal information needs including shopping and entertainment.
  • When you have time to more carefully evaluate information found on the open web.

Creditability / Review Process

  • Articles and books written by journalists or experts in a professional field.
  • All material in database is evaluated for accuracy and credibility by subject experts and publishers.
  • Reviewed and updated regularly.
  •  Lack of control allows anybody to publish their opinions and ideas on the Internet.
  • Not evaluated (for the most part). Need to more carefully evaluate web sites for bias, accuracy, and completeness.
  • Many sites are not updated regularly and can become outdated.
Will it be there next week?  Will it look the same?
  • Most material remains in the database for a signicant length of time and can easily be retrieved again.
  • Published content from journals, magazines, newspapers and books does not change.
  • Website content can often change.
  • Web pages and sites may disappear for a number of reasons.  You may not be able to retrieve the same content later.

Web Searching Caution