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Research & Citation Tools

Evaluating Information

Using the Internet can simplify and speed research, but users should be aware of the flaws of this electronic medium. The information explosion on the Web creates a field of thousands of useful new reference sources and vast opportunities to communicate directly with individuals and groups throughout the world.

Everyone needs to exercise caution when using the Internet for research purposes. Because people, groups and companies can self-publish information, with virtually no editorial or regulatory controls applied to what they publish, the Internet contains some sites with inaccurate, out-of-date or false information.

Here is a list of criteria to consider when you evaluate information found on the Internet:

  • Authority:
    Who sponsors the site? What are the goals/values of the person/organization? Is an e-mail address or mail to link offered for submission of questions or comments? What are the credentials of the individual or group who created the website? The sponsor or location of the site should be appropriate to the content by the top-level domain in the URL. For example: .edu for educational or research materials, .gov for government resources, .com for commercial products or commercially sponsored sites, .org for organizations with a special interest in some topic. ~NAME in the URL may mean a personal home page with no official sanction.
  • Currency:
    Is the content up-to-date? Is the latest revision date posted somewhere on the page? Is the update current?
  • Purpose:
    What is the site’s purpose? Does the information appear unbiased, or does it show a clear agenda or bias? Is the information there to inform, explain, persuade, entertain, or advertise a product?
  • Documentation:
    The source of information should be stated at the site, whether original or borrowed from another source. Does the website provide well-documented information? Are articles signed or attributed? Is content verifiable? Are working links to other site links provided?

Each of the websites below provide an excellent process for helping students determine if a website is suitable for academic use.

Evaluate Information the P.R.O.V.E.N. Way

The P.R.O.V.E.N. Method is an information evaluation tool that enables you to evaluate the usefulness of information on six key points: Purpose (why something was written), Relevance (how useful the information is), Objectivity (whether the information is biased), Verifiability (whether the information is factual), Expertise (credentials of the information creator), and Newness (recency of information). Download the PDF of the P.R.O.V.E.N. Method to learn how to use this tool. 

Peer Review in 3 Minutes

[NCSU Libraries]. 2014, May 1. Peer Review in 3 Minutes. [Video File]. Retrieved from 

The Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

[Amanda Dinscore]. 2013, August 16. The Anatomy of a Scholarly Article. [Video File]. Retrieved from
(This tutorial was adapted from the “What is a Scholarly Article?" tutorial created by Oregon State Library.)

The Information Cycle

[DigitalLiteracy]. 2010, January 29. Information Cycle. [Video File]. Retrieved from
The DigitalLiteracy YouTube page is a product of the Undergraduate Library of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.