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COM 101 - Marissa Pytlak-Surdyke, PhD : Evaluating Websites

Things to Consider

When books or journal articles are evaluated and indexed, many things are considered, including Accuracy, Authority (of the author/organization and publisher), Objectivity, and Timeliness. Websites, likewise, can be evaluated by using many of the same tools. This page will offer some questions to ask yourself in order to determine the validity of your search results.



The information on the website should be factual and verifiable through other sources.

  • Is the text reliable and free of errors?
  • How was the information gathered? Are there links to other research sites to help verify the information presented?
  • Is there a list of sources or names of individuals whose previously published work was used as source information?
  • In the case of included data, is accurate information given on how the data was collected, sorted, and interpreted?



It is of primary importance when evaluating a website for use in academic research to determine who is responsible for the content.

  • If the subject is in your field of expertise, do you recognize the person or organization listed as one of known authority?
  • Is there an author, editor, or webmaster listed? Are credentials given for those individuals listed?
  • Is there a way to contact those listed for more information if necessary?
  • If no author information is listed, does the URL or domain indicate a source of authority (e.g. .edu, .org, .gov)?



A source used for research, even though it may focus one side of an issue, should not show bias in its presentation.

  • Is the source a group known for its agenda in trying to further its cause through sensationalism?
  • Is the content fact or propaganda? Is the information presented in a manner which allows the reader to formulate their own opinion?
  • Is the information from a personal page of an author being presented on the web through a host web page?



In some areas of study, the timeliness of information has little to do with the subject matter, e.g. historical events, some areas of literature, etc. On the other hand, there are some fields, e.g. science and medicine, which are always changing and require exposure to the most current material at all times. There are ways to ascertain whether the website you are using is current.

  • When was the web page last updated? This information is usually available near the bottom of the web page.
  • Is there information concerning how often the data is regularly updated?
  • Are there links to other sites from the main site? Are they current? Are there dead links?

Evaluating Websites

Tips on determining the validity of a website: 

1. Evaluate the URL

 Since search engine results list URLs, you can begin evaluating a website before you even visit it. If the URL begins with a commercial ISP (,,, etc.) or free hosting service (,,, etc.) and contains a person's name or screen name, the link points to a personal website. Information from personal websites often takes longer to verify. Keeping the type of information you're looking for in mind, ask yourself whether you're likely to find reliable information from the government, educational institutions or not-for-profit organizations (.gov, .edu, .org). If you're looking for sites from other countries, you may want to consider the country code (.ca, .uk, .au, etc.).

 2. Evaluate the Author or Publisher

Once you've clicked through to a website and scanned it to see if it contains the kind of information you are looking for, you will want to ask yourself a few questions about who wrote or published the information, and for what purpose. If the page is signed and contains the author's email address, you may wish to check the site for the author's biography or do a search on the author's name to see if he or she is a recognized expert on your topic. If the page is not attributed to an author, you will want to ask yourself who published the information (usually the owner of the domain name in the URL) and whether or not they claim responsibility for information appearing on their site. If they do, you can evaluate the publisher as you would the author. Check the homepage for information about the publisher's purpose (often found in links titled "About Us," "Philosophy," "Background," etc.). If the website quotes other sources, an article in "The New York Times," for example, you should check "The New York Times," either through the paper's website or a newspaper database to verify that the article was quoted correctly.

 3. Evaluate Timeliness

If you are researching a topic where timeliness is an important factor, make sure to check the website to find when the information was last updated. If a significant amount of time has passed, the author may have abandoned the site and the information may no longer be current. 

Web Databases

The following are open web databases that may help you in your research in a variety of subject areas. They provide some free access to articles as well as links to articles which require payment for full text. You can request those articles through our Interlibrary Loan service to receive them for free.

Interlibrary Loan

You can request articles, books, and other resources through our interlibrary loan services. Learn more here:

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