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Evaluating sources

Authority

Questions to ask

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Is there contact information for the author?
  • What qualifications does this person or organisation have to discuss this topic? (Does the author have a university degree in the discipline? Is the author an amateur, or someone using the opportunity to express their own opinions?)
  • Does the URL indicate what type of organisation the information is coming from? (If an organisation is responsible for the pages, is the organisation widely recognised as a source of scholarly and reliable information, e.g. CSIRO for science topics.)
  • Has the author provided any evidence to back up their information?
  • Can the information and the references be verified elsewhere?
  • Is there any evidence the information has gone through a peer-review process?

What to look for on a webpage

  • Information about the author and the author's contact details – look for a link to a university or professional organisation.
  • Information about any organisation associated with the webpage – look for a link called "About Us" or something similar.
  • Links to other articles and publications by the person or organisation.
  • Is there a “Disclaimer statement” – this might indicate the website is a joke or a hoax?

If you can't find any information about the author on the webpage, do another search to see if it is possible to identify the credentials of the author and/or organisation.

What to look for in print material

  • Check the book cover for biographical information about the author.
  • Check within the source for a list of references, bibliography or footnotes.

Remember: If you cannot verify that the information is authoritative, it is best not to use it.

Domain names

One way to get a quick idea of who is sponsoring or publishing a website is to understand the domain name portion of the URL.

.com

Commercial businesses and for-profit
organisation.

.edu 

Educational institutions including primary
schools in many countries.

.net    Organisations directly involved in Internet operations.
.org    Miscellaneous organisations that don't fit any
other category, such as non-profit groups.
.gov   any government organisations.
~ (tilde)   Web pages created independently by
individuals.
country codes A two-letter international standard abbreviation
such as ".de" for Germany or ".uk" for the
United Kingdom.
 .ac.uk The .ac refers to "academic" and is used
by United Kingdom universities.

Responsible Officer: University Librarian/Page Contact: Library Systems & Web Coordinator