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Evaluate Sources

Questions to Ask About Information from the Web

What's in a Name ... Evaluate the URL

  • What is the domain?
  • Who published the site?
  • Does the header or footer (or a watermark or wallpaper) show the page's affiliation with a larger website?
  • Is there a link to the homepage where the document lives?
  • Is there a link to send a message to the webmaster?

Around the Edges ... Scan the Perimeter of the Page

  • Is there a “last updated” or “last modified” date on the page to determine currency?
  • Does the site offer more information through “about us” or “philosophy” links (for organizations) or “background” or “biography” links (for individuals).
  • Can’t find information about the author on the page? Use an Internet search engine to find out about them elsewhere.

Quality Matters ... Quality of the Information

  • Can the material on the site be corroborated elsewhere?
  • Are there links to other resources, footnotes, or bibliographies? Do they add credibility or authority to the material? Are they current?
  • If there are advertisements on the page, are they clearly differentiated from the content?

Sounds Like…Tone of the Page

  • Does the language used on the page suggest a specific ideology or agenda?
  • Why was the page put on the web: To entertain, inform, advertise/sell a product, influence views, share information?
  • Is it a parody or satire? Is the material exaggerated or humorous, or does it suggest an impossible argument?

Library Reference Databases

Keep in mind the University Library offers a multitude of reference materials that can be particularly useful when you need background information. Start your research with background information from one of our reference databases.

Domain Names

The website domain is typically at the end of a website URL or address and can give clues about the publisher of the website.

Commercial businesses and for-profit organizations; available for purchase by anyone
Educational institutions; can sometimes include personal student and faculty websites
Organizations directly involved in Internet operations and those subscribers that publish their own websites
Originally designated for non-profit organizations, but now available to anyone; typically used for organizations that don't fit other categories
United States federal government organizations
United States federal military organizations
~ (tilde)
Web pages created independently by individuals
country codes
A two-letter international standard abbreviation such as ".de" for Germany or ".uk" for the United Kingdom


Wikipedia may be a convenient source for quick information on a topic; however, it is not a reliable source for academic research. The Wikipedia site allows anyone to edit an entry and, by its own admission, is written largely by amateurs.