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Bissell Library: Evaluating online information

Evaluating Online Sources

How do you determine if a source is credible? You can evaluate the reliability and scholarship of information you find both online and in print by using these guidelines:

  • Authorship
    If the author is not identified be wary. When an article or website is authored anonymously it has little credibility. It should be evident who created the content. What are the author's credentials? Does he/she have expertise in this field? Is biographical information provided?
  • Publisher
    This can help you determine the origin of the document, for example whether it is produced by an established publisher, a government agency, a nonprofit organization, or a commercial website. Consider the publisher's reputation and trustworthiness.
  • Accuracy and objectivity
    Can the facts presented on a website be substantiated elsewhere? Beware of information that can't be confirmed or that presents a biased view. Always check multiple sources to determine credibility.
  • Timeliness
    Be aware of when the web page was created and how recently it's been updated. Is the information current? Outdated information and broken links indicate the page is not being maintained.
  • Footnotes and bibliographies
    Legitimate references and links to other sources can add to a document's credibility and depth of scholarship.
  • Sponsorship
    Some sites are officially approved by the parent organization to which they're linked. Others can be on a parent site but not officially sponsored by the organization. A personal homepage on a university's server does not automatically confer credibility.

Milstein Undergraduate Libary - Columbia University