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Waidner-Spahr Library

Research Process: Evaluating Websites

Use this guide to as a basic guide to research. Information is included on how to use keywords and phrases, evaluate a source. This guide can also help you identify primary and secondary sources and expand or narrow your searches.

What defines a good website?

You should be extremely cautious when using internet resources for your research. Anyone can publish anything on the Web. Unlike traditional print resources, web resources rarely have editors or fact-checkers and no standards exist to ensure accuracy on the internet. To determine whether a website may be appropriate for your research, you should take a look at various elements of the page and think about the following criteria.

An appropriate website may be:

  • Signed or attributed to an author
  • Created by an expert in the field
  • Hosted by a university, college, branch of government or not-for-profit organization 
  • Unbiased 
  • Updated frequently 
  • Supported by footnotes, bibliographies, and additional readings 
  • Relevant to your research 

An inappropriate website may be:

  • Unsigned and unattributed to an author
  • Created by a profit-making company
  • Hosted by advertisers motivated to sell products
  • Biased strongly toward one point of view
  • Out of date and rarely, if ever, updated
  • Devoid of the author's sources
  • Flashy and interesting, but irrelevant