Using free Web sources in research papers is less reliable than using print sources. Unlike print, anyone can publish on the Internet. That's why it's good to be discriminate about Web sources.
A note about using Websites as research paper sources: Websites are seldom subject to the same editorial review standards as traditional publications (books, newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals).
Points to consider:
Does the page include an author's name?
Are the author's qualifications presented?
Does the author have a background related to the topic?
Is the author affiliated with an educational institution or other reputable organization?
Is there any information on the page about the organization?
domain names (e.g., .com .edu .org) can often be a good indicator as to what type of organization is publishing the site.
(Additionally, check “About Us” link.)
It is important to identify the individual or organization responsible for the Website.
Points to Consider
Are all aspects of the topic covered?
Is the coverage in depth?
Does the information add any new or unique information about your topic? Is any bias detectable?
Is evidence provided for purported facts?
Does the Website cite any other research on the topic?
Is the Website a collection of links or does it have useful information within it?
Are the links up to date?
How comprehensive and accurate is the information, and the links provided?
How does the Website compare to print resources on the same topic? Can you determine who the audience of the site is?
Is there a bibliography citing sources used to back up the Websites claims?
It's important to evaluate how in-depth is the information is on the site, as well as what kind of informationavailable to back up the site’s claims.
Points to Consider
When was the Web page produced?
Has the site been updated recently?
Are the links included up-to-date?
Having up-to-date well-maintained information on a Website is crucial. If the information on the site is outdated or has not been recently updated, it might not be a good reference source.
Adapted by Margaret Burke from Bobst Library on September 8, 2018