Evaluating Internet Sources Basic Criteria for Evaluating Sources Peer-Reviewed Journals Research: Evaluating Sources Research: Locating Sources Ethical Issues What is a scholarly source? The Changing Nature of Information Research: Using Databases Research: Techniques and Tools Research : What is it? The Changing Nature of Information

Evaluating Internet Sources

Any Web site, or any information it may contain, can be used for a research project. The trick is to use websites appropriately. All undergraduate research projects need scholarly and peer-reviewed sources to substantiate the author's arguments. These sources can be found using the "Research Databases" link found on the Hekman Digital Library website. But sources that carry less scholarly weight, sites that may be biased, fluffy, or even rife with errors, can be important components in building a research project. At the bottom of this page are some examples of websites and their possible uses.

Primary Source Material (Example)
The Web is often the best place for finding primary source material. Primary source material is anything written at the time the event occurred. For example, Huckleberry Finn, a diary, a sermon, a scientific experiment, or a newspaper article all qualify as primary documents. It is essential that you verify that the content has not been modified.

Evaluation Criteria: Modified

Documents from an Official Website (Example)
Documents can be taken from the official website of a respectable and responsible organization. Websites for government agencies, corporations, and organizations for the public good (e.g., the American Cancer Society) would be considered official websites. These organizations have a reputation to uphold and will usually evaluate all material posted on their websites. However, the material may reflect only one side of the issue.

Evaluation Criteria: Official Website; Author/Authority; Audience; Objectivity; Currency; Modified

Overview (Example)
These Web sources are useful for understanding the topic and are analogous to encyclopedia articles. Use information you find in these sources with caution, because the accuracy of the information they contain is frequently unverified. Overview sources can lead to additional clues about people, places, and things associated with the topic, but they should not be considered scholarly or essential to the development of an argument.

Evaluation Criteria: Objectivity; Currency; Author/Authority

Factual/Statistical Information (Example)
The Web is a great place to locate factual and statistical information. Does the webpage cite the source of the information? If it does, and if it is possible to obtain the source, use it instead of the website. If the Web source is an exact copy of the printed source—a pdf file, for example—then verifying the information is not necessary.

Evaulation Criteria: Modified; Currency; Author/Authority

Anecdotal / color (Example - Humorous look at plagiarism)
These resources are used to spice up a paper with a few insignificant but interesting facts

Evaluation Criteria: Coverage

Arguments Made by the "Other Side" (Example)

What are proponents of the "other side of the coin" saying? Often, the views of the "other side" are not well represented in scholarly literature. Examples include the anti-anti-smoking position, the Holocaust revisionist position, etc. To properly understand your position, you may need to incorporate arguments from the other side. Make sure the spokesperson (website) you select is reasonable.

Evauation Criteria: Author/Authority; Objectivity; Coverage

While there may be more categories, let's look at webpages that fall into the four mentioned:

  1. Example of a mostly balanced but basic appraisal of the issue
  2. Example of a useful but very biased toward one side or the other of the issue
  3. Example of an official document of an organization or government
  4. Example of a balanced and scholarly appraisal of the issue
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These pages were written by Glenn Remelts. and edited by Jeffrey L. Nyhoff and Nancy Zylstra
©2005 Calvin College, All Rights Reserved

If you encounter technical errors, contact rit@calvin.edu.