Evaluating Internet Resources
Internet resources can be even more challenging to evaluate because dates and authors are not always readily available. Plus, we all know that anyone can create a website. Using the CRAAP test will help you thoroughly evaluate your source, but the following are some important things to consider when reviewing internet sources.
Who Created the Information?
Websites do not always have authors so you'll need to find information on who or what organization is responsible for creating and updating the webpage. The following are links to look for on webpages that should provide more information on who is behind the website.
- "About Us": usually provides information about the organization or company that is responsible for the webpage.
- "Mission Statement": this will provide information on what the organizations values or goals are.
- "Contributors": provides information on who contributes content to the website, sometimes they'll even list the qualifications of their contributors. This section may also provide information on who funds either the website or the organization. *Beware of websites like Wikipedia where anyone can create an account and edit webpages.
Finding the date a website was created or last updated can be difficult sometimes. If you can't find a date on a particular webpage, click around and look at the other resources on their website, can you find a date anywhere? Are there links to other sources that are out of date or dead links?
URL Domain Extensions
The following is a list of the most popular domain extensions, which can be used to help determine authority and objectivity. However, domain extensions alone cannot determine if a web source is quality or if it's right for your research.
.gov - Government. The intent of the site is to present official information collected by or about the workings of a government.
.edu - Educational institution. The intent of the site is to educate as well as present information collected by or about the educational institution. *Look out for student work or papers that haven't been published in an authoritative source.
.com - Commercial. The intent of the site is to sell goods or services, as well as provide information about the company.
.org - Organization, usually non-profit. The intent of the site is to present information collected by or about the organization. Sometimes, the intent of the site is to promote a particular point of view. *For more information about the organization check out Idealist.org.
.net - Network, usually personal Web pages. The intent of the site is as varied as the individual(s) responsible for the content. *Usually not scholarly in nature, so if it is a personal page then make sure you research who that person is and what their qualifications are.
A more complete list of top-level domains is also available.
When to be skeptical?
- There is no author or organization associated with the website.
- There are a lot of advertisements and pop-ups. Just because a website looks professional does not mean that it's authoritative.
- Websites that ask you to take some sort of action: donate money, sign a petition, give your email, etc.
- A website that only cites itself, providing links that only lead you to other resources within the site.
Searching the Internet
Advanced Google Searching
Google offers many search techniques to help refine results, similar to what can be done in a library database. For example:
- Enclose keywords in quotes to search an exact phrase: "san fernando valley"
- Enclose in parentheses and separate with OR to retrieve any of those keywords in the results: (csun OR "california state university northridge")
- Add a minus sign to remove webpages containing a keyword or phrase: -parking
- Limit search to specific website: site:.calstate.edu
- Limit search to specific domain: site:.gov
- Limit results by date of last update: From the results screen, click Search Tools and select time period from the Anytime menu
- Get definitions or explanations of terms: define keyword/phrase, i.e., define "fiscal cliff"
- Watch the Advanced Google Searching video for more help.
- See also: Web Search Help for more tips and tricks for searching Google
More Search Engines
- Google Scholar - (searches scholarly journals and other academic sources. To be able to link to full text available thru the CSUN library, click on "Settings," then "Library Links," and then search "CSUN" in the "Find Library" box. Select "Open WorldCat - Library Search" and "CSU, Northridge - SFX Find It at CSUN" and Save. You only have to do this once on your computer.)
- Google Products - (Google offers many productivity tools as well as other specialized search engines.)
- SearchEngineWatch - (There's more to searching the Internet than Google! This is a comprehensive directory of search engines by type.)
Evaluate Internet Resources
The Internet can be a valuable source of information. However, remember to think critically about the authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, and coverage of the information you find, and check with your instructor to see if you can use the Internet as a resource.
- Evaluating Websites (Video)