You have to write a report, a term paper, or just answer questions for your history assignment, so you turn to...the Internet! But are you sure that what you're finding online is correct? If not, then it's time to evaluate your use of Internet websites.



What makes a website good for use in your research?

  • Content -- What is the site about? Does it have the information that you need? Look at the browser title bar, the document title, content and links. Is the information complete? Is the website presenting information clearly? Are there advertisements or endorsements?

  • Authority -- Who wrote the information on the website? What authority does this person have on this subject? Is this person qualified to write about this subject? Can you verify this person's qualifications from another source such as a journal, a print book, an encyclopedia? Look at the URL for clues as to the author's affiliation (or who he is associated with).

  • Source -- Check the domain of the website. Where is the information coming from? Is the domain appropriate for the content? Look at the URL for more clues:
---- .com = commercial website (this site wants to sell something or is associated with sales)
---- . edu = educational website (this site is educational but watch for special clues in the URL)
---- . org = organizational website (this is a non-profit website that offers services or information)
---- . gov, .mil, or .us = goverment website (these relate to the government)
---- .us, .uk, or .ca = country codes (this indicates the country of the website's origin)
Is it a personal page? Remember in the .edu website there can be "personal pages" that may not reflect educational value but
rather the ideas of a specific person (or professor). Look for a (~), a percent sign (%) or the words "users," "members," or
"people" in the URL. If you see these, you will know that this is a personal page and may not be useful for research.

Is it hosted by a commercial Internet provider (i.e., AOL.com or geocities.com)---these are usually not useful for research.

  • Purpose --- Why is this site on the Web and how does it affect the information? Is the information factual or opinion? Look at the "About us / Mission / Purpose," links, content and advertising. Determine the purpose of the site:
--- Promotional or "soapbox" (tries to persuade or convert the reader)
--- Informational (often multiple viewpoints and references)
--- Educational (provides facts and statistics or general information)
--- Business or marketing (tries to sell)
--- Entertainment
Choose sites whose purposes are compatible with your information.
  • Currency -- When was the webpage produced? When was it last updated? Are there dead links? Is the information on the page outdated?

  • Accuracy -- How accurate or credible is this page? Are sources documented with references or links? Examine references and bibliographies. Where did the author get the information? Verify the information in another source (encyclopedia, journal, book, or another web site). Check who links to the website by doing a link back or link popularity search. Are there links to other sources? Are these sources reliable? Do the links work? Do they offer opposing views or just one viewpoint? Look for errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar. Look at the publisher of the page. Does the publisher take responsibility for the content? Look at the recent copyright information.
  • Coverage -- Are the links evaluated and do they complement the documents' theme? Is the information presented correct? Is the information cited correctly? Are there options for better viewing of the webpage? Does it require special software to access some content (such as Adobe Reader for a .pdf file)? Is it a free website or a fee-based (subscription required) website?

Questions to ask yourself about a website should include those listed on the Cornell University Library's website.