When you're using the Web you have to judge the site to be sure that you can
trust its information.
Here are some questions that will help you decide whether or not a site is good:
Who created the website? Remember anyone can make a web page.
Look at the author of your website. Is it by a famous, well-respected organization like UC Berkeley, or the US Government? Web sites that have good authors don't try to hide this fact. Is the author Joe Blow from Anytown, USA? Is no author even listed? Beware of websites that don't let you know who has written them or what their qualifications are! Look at the URL (address) to get more information about the authors of your web site. Web sites from universities end with .edu. US Government sites end with .gov. Personal web sites or company web sites usually end in .com. Organizations (like the Sierra Club, or the San Francisco Public Library) usually end in .org.
Here are some other things that give you information about the author:
- There's some way to contact the people responsible for the site; usually an
email address, sometimes a phone number and street address, too.
- Pages within the site look similar: they may have the same background color,
or there will be the same logo on every page.
- Pages within the site link back to the home page, and to elsewhere in the
- The site shows signs of being proofread; there are no spelling or grammar
When was the website created? Look at the date of your website. Does the website say when it was last updated? Is the information old or new? How much does that matter for your research project? Are the links to other sites still working? If they're not, you can guess that the author is not working on this web page anymore and the rest of the information might be out of date, too.
What is the goal of the website? What is the viewpoint? Is it to give people facts, or is it trying to sell something? Is the website made to inform? Is it made to persuade? Or is it made to make you laugh? Sometimes web authors make sites with completely incorrect information as a joke! Many websites are trying to sell you a trip to the Bahamas, or some new medicine. Is the website you're looking at made to help people do research or talk them into buying something? Teach yourself to spot ads, and be aware that if a site has a lot of ads, you may want to think twice about whether the information on it is unbiased. However, many valuable sites do contain advertising to help support themselves.
Where does the information come from? Most authors of good websites will tell you where they got their information. Did they do their own research? Did they read books, magazines or newspapers? Do they give you a bibliography (list) of the sources they used? Is the website written by an organization that is famous for their research (like a medical school or a science organization)? Beware of authors that don't tell you where they got their information.
Why is this information useful to you? Does it answer your questions? Does it help you write your report? Or is the information not really related to your research? The best information in the world is not useful if it doesn't answer the questions that YOU have. Maybe you need to look for another site that discusses what you are looking for.
Is this website easy to use? You won't always be able to find exactly what you need on the very first page of the first website you go to. Looking at different places and gathering information from them is what doing research means. But if it's very hard for you to find the information you need, and especially if it seems that information from one part of the site contradicts another part, you may want to try another site.
Sometimes there is no good website.
Remember that you can always ask a librarian for help searching for any kind of information you need! If you're having a really hard time finding anything for the topic you're interested in, you may want to look elsewhere: in books, magazines, or newspapers.
Derived from the work of Kathy Schrock, the American Library Association, the
San Francisco Public Library and the Multnohmah County Library