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Research Guide

Use this guide to help you with every stage of the writing process

Evaluate Web Resources

When looking at resources that you find on the web, make sure you evaluate them to verify that they are credible.

Why you should evaluate web content:

  • The content might not be accurate.
  • There is a lot of “commercial” publishing and sponsoring of web pages. These web pages will reflect the biases of the product or company that sponsored the page.
  • Someone can put up a page and never update it or remove it.
  • Some pages are satire or present a sense of humour that is not appreciated or understood as humour by everyone.
  • Web content may not be appropriate for the type of research you are conducting (Do you need academic sources?)

In help evaluate web content here is a Web Evaluation Criteria Checklist.

Additional information on evaluating other forms of research materials can be found in the Student Learning Portal:  Evaluate Your Resources

Strategies to evaluate internet resources:

Look at this page about Dihydrogen Monoxide. It looks official and it warns about the “dangers” of a substance they refer to as Dihydrogen Monoxide, or DHMO. As you may know, “Dihydrogen Monoxide” is water (H20)! It was presented as a scary chemical, but water is essential for life.

Before you decide if a website is factual, do a little fact checking on your own. Always get a second opinion!

It is useful to identify the type of page that you have found because you would apply different criteria to each type of page.

Ask yourself:

  • what is this site's purpose?
  • to make money?
  • to entertain?
  • to provide information?

For example, a commercial page may contain good information, but knowing that the goal of the page is to sell you a product should make you aware that the information may be biased.

Types of web pages include: commercial, personal, academic, advocacy, association or professional.


URL’s are often a good indication of the origin of the page. The domain name is found after “http://” and “www.” Check the URL to see the domain name extension.

These are some common domain name extensions:

  • .com
  • .biz
  • .name
  • .pro
  • .info (commercial)
  • (Government of Canada)
  • .gov (US government)
  • .org (any organization )
  • .net (network) .edu (educational)
  • .ca (canada)
  • other two letter code (country of origin)
  • % (can mean it is a personal website)

It is often difficult to identify the author of a website, but knowing who wrote the page is important because it tells you about the quality of the information you will find.

As you look at the page, ask the following questions:

  • What is the person’s or association’s authority to post on this subject?
  • Is there a contact address or number (are they willing to answer questions, take feedback or are they hiding)?
  • If the author is a person, can you find a little bit about their background on the website or elsewhere?

Is there a date given on the website? Does this indicate when the site was first placed online (which could indicate the information is dated) or when it was last updated (which indicates the information is maintained)? No dates or an old date could indicate that the site is abandoned and the information stale.

Make sure that the WEB is where you should be looking. Ask yourself:

  • Should you be using a specific part of the web?
    • Google Scholar for scholarly journals rather than
    • The Heart and Lung Association’s website rather than
    • Google News rather than
  • Would a printed resource work better?
  • Would using Library resources give you more free access to quality materials?

Consult some of the sites below. Always be cynical and expect bias – check for a second source even with these sites.