Evaluating Websites

Let’s face it—the internet is here to stay. There are millions of websites available with information on just about every topic you can think of. While this seems like a great way to do research, such widespread information comes at a price. Not all sites are reliable and you will have to double check to make sure the one you are about to use for research is actually a good resource.

How can you do that with all the types of websites out there? Well, here are a few tips to help you get started when you are doing your research.

Look at the URL

The URL is always a clue to what sort of group runs the site.  Some are more scholarly and trustworthy than others.  Some to keep in mind:

  • .edu—an educational institution.  Usually a school.
  • .gov—US government site
  • .org—an organization or association
  • .com—a commercial site
  • .museum—a museum site
  • .net—a personal site

Who is the author?

Look for the author or the organization responsible for the page. A tip is to go to the ‘About’ page of the site, if one is available. Look for the credentials of the person or organization and a contact address.

Is the design well-organized and easy to access?

It is important to have a clearly laid out and organized site to relay information to its visitors.  Look for pages that are easy to read, clear navigational aid that provide access to documents and obvious links on every webpage to the homepage, individual urls for each document for ease of linking and citation information, and clear instructions about special software requirements.

Keeping these things in mind will help you to find and use websites online as resources when you are writing your paper.