How do I find quality web sites?
"On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog," suggests Peter Steiner's cartoon from The New Yorker. What does this mean for you doing research on the Internet?
Well, a lot of useful information is available for free online! However, there is also information that is written to manipulate or mislead. This page will help you search for, evaluate, and cite sources from the web
Other Useful Links
Evaluating Internet Information - from John Hopkins Libraries
Finding Information on the Internet: A Tutorial - from the University of California - Berkeley Libraries
Searching for High Quality Web Information
Unlike search engines, academic search directories provide links to websites that are arranged by subject area and evaluated by a human being before being included in the directory. These criteria help provide higher quality results. Many search directories like Librarian's Internet Index, provide subject and keyword searching.
Over the last decade, many federal and state government publications have moved from print formats to online formats. These may be found by searching a particular agency's site directly. Alternatively, you may wish to use the following search engines.
USA.gov - Government search engine that searches both federal and state sites by keyword and subject.
Science.gov - Gateway to over 50 million pages of authoritative selected science information provided by U.S. government agencies, including research and development results.
Google's Government Search - Google's search engine searching primarily U.S. federal and state government web sites.
Open Access Journals & Databases
There are newspapers and journals available on the web for free. Newspapers can often be found on the newspapers web site. Journals may be more difficult to track down. Directory of Open Access Journals is good way to search for information in open access journals. You may search for journals on a topic, or you may search for articles across many different journals.
Google Scholar & Google Books
Google Scholar and Google Books are both projects by Google. With Google books, Google is working with libraries and publishers to help make full text and excerpts of books available online. Both will be likely to provide better sources than you might receive through the Google search engine. However, some results may not contain full text.
More about searching for articles in Google Scholar.
Evaluating Web Information
As you are selecting web sites to include in your academic papers, consider some of these questions. The answers you find will help you justify what you include in your bibliography.
What is the amount of content available?
Look at the amount of available content. Is it merely a few paragraphs or is it several pages? A few paragraphs may be useful if it is part of something larger or in the form of a news article, but generally you will want to look for something with length.
Another related question to ask is whether you must pay to access any of the content on the site. Keep in mind that journal articles that require payment on the publisher's site, may be available through the library. If you have any questions about accessing content, visit the Reference Desk or email the Reference Librarian.
Who is the author of the pages?
Who is the author? Keep in mind that more reliable resources will usually have a listed author whether it be an individual or a corporation or organization taking responsibility for the content.
What are the author's credentials? Do they have a doctorate or other degree related to the content they are writing about?
Who is the publisher or sponsoring organization?
Who is listed as the publisher or sponsoring organization? What is their purpose? Look at whether they are trying to inform, persuade, or promote. You may look at the URL to help determine if the page is a commercial, educational, or non-profit page. Keep in mind that you may also be on somebody's personal website or blog.
What is the date the material was "published" or updated?
Has the material been updated recently? It may not be bad to use information that is several years old if it is accurate. However, if it is important that you use current information, a page last updated in 2001 will not be useful for you.
Are their links or references to further information?
The best scholarly works reference where they are getting information. This is true of books, articles and websites. Look for a list of related links that will lead you to more information. If an article, look for a works cited or bibliography.
Last update on June 2, 2008