Finding and Evaluating Resources
The Internet offers a wide range of academic, public, commercial, and personal information sources. Many of the resources available through the Web are self-published and unverified. As anyone can publish just about anything on the Web, make sure to always carefully evaluate any online information that you find using Google or other Web search tools.
This guide is designed to help you find and evaluate websites and other freely available Internet resources related to the topic that you are researching.
There is a wide variety of information available on the Web, making it one of the most powerful tools for doing research. But unlike most other traditional forms of information, no one is required to check Web information before it is posted and made public. As a result, the quality of information on the Web ranges from very high to very poor. It’s up to you evaluate, or judge the value of, the information you find on the Web to make sure if it seems trustworthy.
The first step in evaluating Web information is to know the kind of site you are accessing. You can tell this by paying attention to the domain of the address.
Different domains often will contain different kinds of information, even on the same subject. Here are some of the most common domains:
.edu educational site (universities and colleges)
.com commercial business site
.gov U.S. non-military governmental site
.mil U.S. military site
.net networks and internet service providers
.net networks and internet service providers
.org U.S. non-profit organizations
You can generally expect the information on .gov and .mil sites to be accurate.
The information on .edu sites is generally accurate. However, if an .edu site also has a tilde symbol (~) in the address, it is a personal page and needs further evaluation. Sites with domains of .net, .com, and .org also require more evaluation.
The CARS Checklist
You can use the CARS checklist (Credibility, Accuracy, Reasonableness, Support) to help you evaluate information on the Web. Not every Web page will meet every part of this checklist. But familiarizing yourself with the items on this list will help you better and more quickly evaluate the information you find.
Don't believe everything you read on the Web! You need to judge how truthful the information is. Ask yourself these questions to help you evaluate the credibility of a Web site:
What are the author's qualifications for writing on the subject? Look for information about the author's education and experience. Also check for any biographical information. This will give you some evidence of the person's knowledge and reliability.
Are there any ratings or reviews for the Web site? Other evaluations can help you determine the credibility of the information.
Remember that almost anyone can publish information on the Web. Ask yourself this question as you read through the information:
Is the information you find factual, detailed, and up to date? Check the Web site for the date when the information was updated. If the information is old or there is no date, be careful of using the information unless you can verify it with another source. Also, look out for spelling and other errors.
They may reflect the overall accuracy of the information.
When you do research on the Web make sure the information you find is not biased. Keep this question in mind as you research the Web:
Does the Web site present a balanced and consistent argument? Be aware that not all authors and organizations are neutral. You may come across Web sites that present slanted and one-sided arguments in order to convince you to believe in something. Ask if the information is trying to sway your opinion about the topic. If it is biased, you may not want to use it.
Because almost anyone can publish information on the Web, you need to make sure that the information can be backed up. Ask yourself this question to help you judge the extent of the support the author provides:
Where does the information come from? Does the information contain sources? A lack of supporting information should warn you that the information on the Web site may be inaccurate. ing to sway your opinion about the topic. If it is biased, you may not want to use it.
Use the worksheet to help you evaluate Web information.
Evaluating Web Information Worksheet (Should Open on Clicking)
Look at the address of this Web site. What kind of a domain is it?
Who is responsible for the information on this site? What are this person's
qualifications for writing about this subject?
Is there a date that tells you when this site was last updated? Is the information
on this page up to date?
Do you think this site is trying to convince you of something? If so, what?
Are there sources for the information on the Web site?
If you were writing a paper on butterflies, would you judge this Web site to be
a reliable source of information? Why or why not?