Critically Evaluating Internet Resources
Friends don’t let friends use Google, at least not as their first stop in collegiate research. Unlike library-provided databases, there is no quality control on the Internet. To help you critically evaluate the sources you find on the Internet, here are some guidelines to consider. If your course has a Desire2Learn website, the first place to start is your professor’s recommendations on your Library Course Page. See the following points for other criteria in evaluating online resources.
- Who is the author of the web page? Are the author’s credentials listed?
- Is the author affiliated with a reputable institution?
- Did you fail to find an author? Then the source is probably not reliable
- Pay close attention to descriptive sections of the website: FAQs, “About Us” pages, etc.
Tone/Bias: Was the material created to…
- inform? (multiple viewpoints and references presented)
- persuade? (to advocate a particular viewpoint)
- sell a good/service?
- Does the author list fact sources?
- Can you verify information with other source(s)?
- When was the site last updated?
- Is the content current enough for type of information needed?
- Are the facts and statistics dated?
Fee vs. Free Online
- Paid resources, particularly in the form of paid subscriptions to research tools, are generally the most reliable and comprehensive sources available. This includes resources like EBSCOhost and LexisNexis, and the paid content that they provide.
- Free resources may very well be reliable, but should be evaluated critically.