Research Guide: Assessing Sources

Evaluating the credibility and validity of a resource can be very difficult, particularly when doing
research using the Internet. Below are some basic guidelines to help you select reliable resources and
use those to learn accurate information about a given subject.

Characteristics of Reliable Sources

Authority: Who is sponsoring the information? The URL can provide information about the origin
of the resource. The following are examples of ways you can determine the type of organization that
is sponsoring the content for a specific website.

Sites ending in….
.edu are usually educational institutions and generally a good source of information.
.gov are government websites and usually good sources for statistical information
.org are typically non-profit organizations often set up as a public service. Be on the lookout for
political agendas and biases.

Example: If you are looking for information about gun control, then you might check .gov sites for
statistics related to gun ownership, laws, etc. Sites affiliated with specific biases on gun ownership
will probably be listed a .org sites (handguncontrol.org or nrahg.org)

Blogs
While interesting, these are usually not fact-based and as a general rule should not be used for
conducting research

Online magazines or journals
These articles often contain a detailed bibliography and site specific resources as evidence for claims
and statistics

Online news sources
Virtually every network and cable news station has an online site as do local affiliates. It is important
to realize that while they do provide news, they are also involved in the entertainment industry and
may present some information that is opinion vs. fact-based.

Television/Internet video news broadcasts
When viewing video, keep in mind that if it is not from a source that can be accurately documented
with origin, date, and key information like who, what, when, where, why and how, then the source
may not be credible.

Accuracy: Sources for the factual content on the site are clear. There is someone
verifying the accuracy of the information being presented. Verify the
author’s credentials.
Example: Dr. Robert Green is sited as a physician who was in charge of a study that
produced specific results or the Center for Disease control provided certain
statistical data.

Objectivity: The content is provided for public service or educational use. These sites usually
provide links to additional information and are free of advertising for products
related to the topic.

Timeliness: The date of the information and/or the last update is clearly stated on the page.

Above information taken from "Research Guide: Assessing Sources." PBS. PBS, 2010. Web. 25 Mar. 2013.