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Relevancy and Purpose of the Resource

  • Is this information relevant or useful for your topic?
  • How in-depth is the information?
  • Who is the intended audience? Children? Professionals? General public?
  • Is there a particular viewpoint that the author is trying to push or endorse?
  • Watch for advertising. Is something being sold?


  • Watch for biased information from political groups, businesses, pressure groups, and listservs devoted to nonacademic or research missions, and advocacy groups. Be particularly careful with .org or .com sites.
  • Look for a stated purpose. Find information in links that use words like "About us".
  • Mission statement. Look for basic information about the site and who runs it.
  • Check Articles and Databases to see if you can find articles to verify the information.

Research Tutorial: Previous (Finding Your Sources) or Next (Citing Resources)

Authority of the Resource

  • Who is the author? Is there an author listed? Signed articles are the best sources. If you can not identify the author, organization or corporation that wrote the web page or posted the information, do not use it.
  • What are the author's credentials? Is the author an authority on the topic? What expertise does the author have?
  • Is there a sponsor/company or location of the site appropriate to the material? Domain names in the URL can provide clues:
    • .edu for education or research material from educational institutions
    • .gov for government resources
    • .com for commercial products or commercially-sponsored sites.
    • .net for an Internet Service Provider
    • .org for organization (not for profit)
  • A tilde ( ~ ) as part of a URL may mean a personal home page with no official sanction, even if there is a .edu or .com in the URL.
  • Is there an email account to send questions or comments? Or an address to contact the author or producer?


  • Choose sources from established publishers over ones about which you know little.
  • Web databases subscribed to by the UW-Stout Library contain articles and references from respected sources. Examples of licensed databases available in Articles and Databases are EbscoHost, ABI/ Inform, Academic Search Premier and NewsBank.
  • Use information from government agencies, trade and professional associations, major universities or research centers. If you need to know more about an association, try searching for it in Associations UnlimitedStout Users Only
  • Check to see if the URL moves or disappears abruptly. Reliable publishers establish markers to new locations of web pages.

Research Tutorial: Previous (Finding Your Sources) or Next (Citing Resources)

Structure and Grammar

  • Is the text grammatically correct? Are there spelling errors?
  • Are the graphics there to help the reader understand or learn? Do they have a function? Or are they there for decoration?
  • Is the site easy to navigate? Are there clearly labeled buttons to return the viewer to Home, Back, Go To Top?
  • Are all of the links working? Reliable sources frequently check their links to make sure they are working.

Research Tutorial: Previous (Finding Your Sources) or Next (Citing Resources)

Currency of the Content

  • When was the web site produced?
  • When was it last revised?
  • How up to date are the links?
  • For your purposes, does it matter if the information is current or not?


  • Reliable sources usually include the last date that the web page was revised. 

Research Tutorial: Previous (Finding Your Sources) or Next (Citing Resources)

Hoax Sites

Check these to see if your resource has been identified as having nonauthoritative work: 

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