No matter what type of source you would like to use, what format it is in (print, web, or multimedia), or where you find it, you need to evaluate it to determine if it is:
- Credible: Do you, and should you, trust the information provided in this source?
- Relevant: Is the information in this source appropriate, useful, and closely connected to the research question you are seeking to answer?
To determine the credibility of any source, use the following criteria to guide you.
- Why was this source published/released?
- Does this source inform, persuade, provide an opinion, sell something, etc.?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Who is the author or creator of this source?
- What are their credentials?
- Do they have authority to speak on the topic?
- What company published or produced this source?
- Is this a for-profit company, and if so, how might that impact the information presented in one of their publications/works?
- Is this company known to have an editorial bias, and if so, how might that impact information presented in one of their publications/works?
- Does this company have a mission statement listed on their website? What is it and what does it tell you about the company?
- Does the author/creator cite his or her sources (either formally or informally)?
- What are the sources the author/creator cites?
- Does the author/creator appear to fairly represent the information from their cited sources?
- When was this information published/released?
- Do you need recent or historical information on your topic?
Additional Tips for Evaluating Websites
Asking the following questions will help you to sort fact from fiction on the web.
How did you navigate to this page?
- Did you get here through a credible government or university website, search engine, or a sketchy-looking website or forum?
What is the site’s domain?
- .org: Traditionally an advocacy web site, such as a not-for-profit organization, though open to anyone now.
- .com: Traditionally a business or commercial site.
- .net: Traditionally a site from a network organization or an Internet Service Provider, though open to anyone now.
- .edu: A site affiliated with a higher education institution.
- .gov: A federal government site.
- .il.us: A state government site, this may also include public schools and community colleges.
- .uk: (United Kingdom): A site originating in another country (as indicated by the 2 letter code).
- ~: The tilde usually indicates a personal page.
Is the page current?
- Always check for a date (either publication date, copyright date, and/or a “last updated/reviewed” indicator).
Does the page look professional and function well?
- If you see lots of typos, grammatical errors, and dated design, the site likely has limited or non-existent editorial oversight.