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Brown Library :: Research Tools

Evaluating Websites

Determine a website's relevance and reliability by asking yourself the following questions:

What does the URL tell you about the website?

You can often tell what kind of organization is providing the information by looking at the domain name of the website address. Common domain types include: edu (educational), org (organization) and com (commercial). You can generally trust educational or government websites. In Google, you can limit your search to a particular domain. For example, to limit a search on environment to educational sites only, use the Google Advanced Search and type edu on the "Search within a site or domain line."

Who is the author? What are his/her qualifications?

Are the author's credentials given on the site?  If not, you may need to check biographical sources to identify the author.

If there is no individual identified as author, who is responsible for the information?

Find out something about the site's sponsor by going to its home page or by looking up the organization in a source such as Gale Group's Associations Unlimited.

Is the material presented in an objective manner?

Does the author or sponsor show prejudice or have a particular bias?

What is the purpose of the site?

Is the purpose to educate, entertain, or sell?

Are you able to tell whether or not the information is current?

Sometimes, information is not recent because the website has not been updated for years. In some situations, such as historical or critical research, timeliness might not be too important.

Is the information accurate?

You might need to verify the information by looking in other sources.

Does the site show evidence of careful research?

A bibliography is a good clue.

Are there links to other websites?

A good website usually has links within the content of the article to lead you to further information on your subject. If the document's links are "dead," the site might be an old one.

Does the site give good coverage of your topic?

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