Much investigative work is accomplished using the “free Web,” which is not under the careful quality controls of University-
based course materials.

How to Conduct Reliable Web Research

The Blackboard™ system provides students in The Global Challenge with research tools; however, much investigative work is accomplished using the “free Web,” which is not under the careful quality controls of University-based course materials. So how can one tell if a Web site is a reputable source of information?


Find out who wrote the Web page or look for copyright information or a link to a reputable organization. Look for the author’s affiliations and/or biographical information. Are these credentials verifiable? Is the author an authority on the subject? Is contact information included?


Consider who is sponsoring the Web page to determine potential biases. Is it a commercial site (.com)? Are there potential conflicts of interest?


Beware the tilde (~)! Use of this symbol in a Web address usually indicates that an individual, rather than an organization, has posted the page. That individual may not be bound by the same rigorous standards that reputable organizations apply to the material they distribute. Also, for the same reason, be careful of pages from online community sites and sites posted through Internet service providers.


Consider the purpose of the page and its target audience when evaluating its biases. Banner advertising, reading level and the use of animation may be an indication. Consider the author’s tone when looking for biases: Is the information presented fairly and with balance or does it seem emotional or extreme?


Remember, dates on Web pages do not necessarily indicate that the information provided is up to date. Compare the information found online with that available from other sources. Information on the sciences, technology or business may become quickly outdated, whereas information on the humanities or social sciences has a longer “shelf-life.”


Does the Web page document sources for its “facts?” Academic Web pages often include bibliographies. Don’t skip over these assuming that the information provided must be credible if sources are cited. Check the sources. Is there a variety? Are they well known? Have they been cited on other Web pages and in other research sources?


Lastly, go with your instincts. If you suspect a Web page may not be legitimate, it probably isn’t.

Adapted from course material for The Global Challenge, specifically Cramer, S. (2001, March 6). Evaluating Web Pages, Duke Libraries > Guide to Library Research. Retrieved October 10, 2001, from

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