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General Research Guide: Finding Websites

Is this a good website to use?

To begin your evaluation of a website, look for the following items:

  • Go to the home page, "About Us" section (or something similar) of the web site where the document lives and search for the author's name using any available site search or directory (works best for academic web sites). This may help establish affiliation. You can also backspace the URL of the page you are on to get to the home page. i.e. would backspace to to get to Butte College's main page.
  • Try searching the author's name, enclosed in quotation marks, in Google. This may lead to other information on or pages by the same author.
  • Click any links on the page. Are the links broken? Do they direct you to another verifiable web page? Is there a bibliography with clickable links?
  • Check for any grammar or spelling errors. If you find errors be aware of the lack of editorial process that went into creating this page.
  • The document includes the date(s) at which the information was gathered (e.g., US Census data).
  • The document refers to clearly dated information (e.g., "Based on 1990 US Census data.").
  • The document includes a publication date or a "last updated" date.
  • The document includes a date of copyright.


Is the content credible?

You've decided that the website itself is credible enough to use, but what about the content? Can you trust the information you read? Here are some tips:

Point of View or Bias
  • First, note the URL of the document. Using the technique of backspacing to the home page you previously learned, you have determined either the author or publisher of the information. Does this document reside on the web page of an organization that has a clear stake in the issue at hand?
    • If you are looking at a corporate web page, assume that the information on the corporation will present it in the most positive light.
    • If you are looking at products produced and sold by that corporation, remember: you are looking at an advertisement.
    • If you are reading about a political figure at the web page of another political party, you are reading the opposition.
  • Does this document reside on the web page of an organization that has a political or philosophical agenda?
    • If you are looking for scientific information on human genetics, would you trust a political organization to provide it?
    • Never assume that extremist points of view are always easy to detect. Some sites promoting these views may look educational.
Cross Check
  • When you read something on a website, see if you can find that information in other sources (another website, book, magazine, or journal). If you can verify the information you find is part of a larger consensus, you can trust that information
  • Does the website you found include a list of references? If so, that is a good indicator that the information is well researched. You can even use the references they cite to find more sources.

Evaluating Websites Video

The video below gives a broad overview for how to find credible sources online.


Checklist to evaluate sources