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Citing Your Sources: Evaluating Websites

A guide to help you choose quality resources and how to cite those resources.


There is a difference between articles in a peer-reviewed/scholarly journal and an article in a popular magazine. Journal articles go through a lengthy review process by other experts in that subject area. Whereas the popular magazine article is generally the opinion of the writer, approval is only done by the editor, and bears very little factual evidence to defend their claims.

The same can be true of websites found on general search engines. In order to find factual information for your research papers your best bet is to use the databases your library subscribes to. These databases are purchased by the library and reviewed by your librarian. Articles found in scholarly databases are usually not found using search engines, this is called the deep web where the “good stuff” can be found.

Ask yourself these questions when determining the reliability of a website.

1. Who is responsible for the site? 

               Is there an author? What are his or her credentials? Is the “author” an organization or association?

2. What type of site is it? 

               .edu = educational

               .org = organization

               .gov = government

               .net = network/utilities or internet service provider

               .mil = military

               .com = commercial

(watch out for URLs that end in .co they are fake mirror sites of legitimate websites)

3. When was the site created or updated?

               Keep in mind that an automated date does not indicate when the information was updated.

4. Where can you find more information?

               Is there contact information other than an email address? Is there documentation for factual statements, assertions, and second-hand information? Are there links to other viewpoints, if applicable?

5. Why was the site created?

               Is the goal to sell? To Persuade? To advocate an agenda? To inform? What advertisements, if any, are there? Do they relate to the site?

Finally if you remember the acronym, CRAAP, it might help you to decide if a specific website can be a reliable source. 


R elevance

A uthor

A ccuracy

P oint of view

Here's a link to a fuller explanation of the CRAAP Test

Your Librarian

Jeannette Glover's picture
Jeannette Glover
Russell Learning Resource Center
23235 N. County Highway 22
Canton, IL 61520
(309) 649-6603