Evaluating Online Information

All information found online using Google should be critically evaluated because there is no guarantee that it is reliable or accurate.

While doing your research, check each source for currency, reliability, authority and purpose.

Try to answer the questions below:

Currency (Is the information up-to-date?)

  • How recent is the information?
  • How recently has the website been updated?
  • Is the website modified regularly?
  • Is the information current enough for your research?

Checklist for up-to-date information  

  • Site or page date
  • Is the date of publication or last revision published (often at the bottom of the page)?
  • When was the site or page last updated?
  • Is the information out-of-date?

Reliability (Is the information trustworthy?)

  • Is this web page intended for elementary or high school students?
    • If so, is it the best site to refer to when writing a university-level research paper?
  • Has the information passed through any peer reviewing process?​

Sources?

  • Has the author(s) documented his/her sources by including a reference list?
  • Is the information reproduced from another site. If so, which one?
  • If applicable, when were the sources published?

Checklist for reliable information

  • Evidence of the peer review process (e.g., in an "About us" or editorial statement)
  • A bibliography or reference list

Authority (Is the author credible?)

  • Who is the creator or author of the website or web page
  • E.g., a recognized individual or organization/government?
  • What are his/her/its credentials
  • E.g., is the individual author or organization known in the field? 
  • Has the author published other material(s)?
  • Does the author provide contact information (e.g., email address or phone number) in case you want to verify the information?
  • Who is the publisher or sponsor?
  • Can you determine if he/she/the organization has a good reputation?

Checklist for authoritative information

Author's credentials

  • Look for information about the author of the site or page. Is the author qualified to publish on this topic?
  • E.g. Can you identify the author's education and relevant professional experience?
  • Look up the author's name in the Library search box or use Wikipedia. 

URL

  • ​Read the uniform resource locator (URL) carefully to determine if you are reading someone's personal page. 
  • You need to investigate the author carefully because personal pages have no publisher or domain owner to vouch for the information.

Domain

  • ​Is the domain extension appropriate for the content? 
  • Government sites: .gov
  • Educational sites: edu
  • Nonprofit organizations: .org

Publisher

  • ​Identify the publisher (individual or organization) of the site or page. 
  • The publisher operates the server computer from which the site or page is issued. Do you know anything about the publisher?

"About us" links

  • ​Read the information on the site or page about the author and/or publisher. 
  • This could be under "about us," "philosophy," "background," or "bibliography" tabs.

Page design or structure

  • ​Page design is not always an indicator of credibility but if a site or page is easy to navigate, you'll be able to assess the information more easily.

Purpose/Point of view (Is the information objective?)

  • What is the purpose or point of view of the site?
  • Is the information primarily fact or opinion?
  • Does the point of view seem balanced and/or objective (e.g., presents more than one perspective)?
  • What is the publisher's interest (if any) in this information? 
  • Does the site try to persuade, advocate, entertain, or sell a product?​
Content last reviewed: January 26, 2021