Not all information presented on the Web is researched, subjected to oversight, or suitable for college research. Here are some questions you can ask of your source to determine whether the content is trustworthy or suitable for your research.
1. WHO wrote it?
Is there an author listed as the creator of the article, page or site? Can you contact them? Do they list their credentials?
Find out more information by and about the author by doing a search on the Internet with the author’s name. You could also search within the library’s databases to look for other articles by or about the author.
2. WHO owns it?
Who owns the site and are they reputable? If the site owner is not visible, truncate parts of the URL (web address) to go back to main parts of the site.
You can find out more about the site owner at whois.net or backtrack to the main site: www.wharton.upenn.edu to find out that this article came from The Wharton School (business college) at the University of Pennsylvania.
3. WHO links to it?
Is this site listed in a subject directory? Take a look the MCC Library's Research Guides , Austin Community College's Research Guides, or the Library of Congress Virtual Reference Shelf.
Do other reputable sites link to this site? To find out, search in Google with <link:root part of URL of main site>
example: link:wharton.upenn.edu AND site:edu
4. WHAT is on the page to add to or take away from the value of the information?
Be wary of 1) offensive language or photos, 2) sponsored ads, 3) poor design of the site, 4) required fees or registration, except for scholarly journals and journal sites, 5) no identification of sources used or cited, or 6) the site or page lacking identification of the author, site owner, or contact information for the author or owner.
5. WHEN was the information created or updated?
Is there a publication date given? Often a page may have been updated even if the information included on the page was not. Look for dates associated with the publication of the information or article. This is particularly important with subject areas in which currency of information is critical (medicine, nursing, technology, etc).
6. WHERE is this site?
While this is no longer a hard and fast rule, some Internet domains provide higher quality information than others. Organizational (org), governmental (gov) or educational sites (edu) will have more oversight in the content hosted. Is the page or site part of a blog, discussion forum, or other site providing user opinions rather than scholarly analysis?
7. WHY did the owner or author publish the information?
What are their intentions? Is the purpose to give a balanced and researched view of a topic, inform, educate, persuade, or train? Is the purpose to entertain, sell, misinform, sensationalize, promote a certain bias agenda or fictionalize? Is the content opinion, personal narrative, verifiable fact, or researched information?
8. HOW can the information on the web page or site benefit your paper or project?
Is the content from the source appropriate for your assignment? Is the article long enough for your informational needs? Are you being asked for scholarly analysis, factual reporting of events, evidence for a research claim, statistics or general information? Make sure the reading level, sources and information is suitable for your paper or project.