Google is a useful search tool for academic research but keep in mind, many websites may not be appropriate for your academic assignments. A website is a group of webpages "usually containing hyperlinks to each other and made available online" (Merriam Webster n.d.). A website may link to Word or PDF documents, videos, and audio files. An important part of evaluating a website involves understanding what you have found and where it came from. It can be tricky to follow the data!
Websites often provide access to other types of sources, such as:
News or magazine articles
Government data & business reports
Publications from research organizations
Choose sites that BEST match your assignment requirements, not just the first ones that appear on Google. Whether you need research studies or opinion pieces, your assignment requirements and research topic will guide your selection of sources. Consider the following:
Generally, avoid public wikis, like Wikipedia, since anyone can change the content without verification.
The author of a website may be a person, company, organization, or government agency. Their credentials, expertise, and reputation provide clues for determining the credibility of the content. Consider the following:
Generally, avoid strongly biased authors that may present misinformation or omit key details.
Information on the web is usually written and published for a purpose. Think critically about why the author is sharing information online. Consider the following:
Generally, avoid quick answer sites, like Ask.com, as responses are often simplistic and authors are difficult to ascertain.
Authors often build upon existing research or evidence, so linking or citing is important to pay attention to. Consider the following:
Currency provides insight on how recent the information was published or written. The importance of currency varies depending on assignment guidelines and academic disciplines. A website's design may provide hints whether the content is kept up-to-date. Consider the following:
Use the Evaluating Websites Rubric to determine if your website sources are suitable for your assignment.
Chat with Us if you have any questions about evaluating your sources.