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The Hulbert Taft, Jr. Library


How Do I?: Find and Evaluate Websites

Finding Reliable Websites

Search Engines 

What are they? Computer programs that search documents, especially on the World Wide Web, for a specified word or words and provide a list of documents in which they are found. Google, Bing and Yahoo! Search are among the most popular. See leading technology information and advice website Lifewire's The Best Search Engines of 2020 for more.

Search Tip

Limit your search to domains that are considered to be more reliable by combining your search term(s) with the phrase site:gov OR site:edu which will limit your results to the domain .gov (websites originating from the U.S. government) and the domain .edu for educational institutions in the U.S. Note: be aware that universities may allow their students to use their edu domain. If there is a tilde (~) in the address, it may be a personal student page which is not monitored by the institution.

Subject Directories 

What are they? Also known as web directories, these lead users to websites selected and reviewed by scholars, librarians, and teachers, and organized by subjects.

  • SweetSearch, a search engine for students from FindingDulcinea.com, it searches only the 35,000 Web sites evaluated and approved by Dulcinea's staff of research experts, librarians and teachers.
  • Britannica Academic On your topic article page, find Web's Best Sites in the left sidebar to display sites selected by Britannica editors for quality and age-appropriateness
  • For more information and a list of web directories, see Lifewire's What is a Web Directory?

More places to find reliable websites

  • Search the Invisible Web: 20 Free Resources Typical search engines actually access only a tiny fraction of the internet, so where's the rest? This guide from Lifewire, a leading technology information and advice website, shows you where to look. Click here for more information about the invisible web.
  • Google Scholar Search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites.

A word about Wikipedia

Wikipedia's general disclaimer: "Wikipedia cannot guarantee the validity of the information found here. The content of any given article may recently have been changed, vandalized or altered by someone whose opinion does not correspond with the state of knowledge in the relevant fields."

Evaluating Websites

Ask yourself the following questions to determine the reliability of a website:

 
Who published it?

What type of organization is behind it? Look at the domain:

  • .com = represents a commercial business
  • .edu = represents an educational institution in the U.S.
  • .gov = represents a U.S. government entity
  • .net = originally represented network technologies companies, but now is often treated as an alternative to .com
  • .org = represents an organization, usually a nonprofit-making organization
  • Is it a personal page? Look for ~ or % after the domain, especially on .edu webpages.
Who is the author?
  • Look for "About Us", "Sponsors", "Philosophy", "Biography", "Who am I"
  • What are their credentials? Why believe them?
  • What values do they stand for?
  • Is there evidence of bias?
  • Google the author's/organization's name
  • If none of the above, truncate back the URL one / at a time.
How current is the page?
  • Is currency important for your topic?
  • When was the last update?
Does the content appear good quality?
  • Are sources documented in footnotes, or links outside that work?
  • Links to more information? Any dead links?
  • Links to other points of view?
  • Evidence of hype/trash/ranting? For ex: controversial topics
  • Misspellings and grammatical errors?
What is the purpose of the page? Why was it put on the web?
  • Inform with facts/data? Explain?
  • Persuade/sell/entice?
  • Deceive/rant/satire?
  • Is it biased? Check Media Bias Fact Check.
    (this will work for newspapers, magazines and online news sources)