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Library Tutorial: Using Web Resources

This guide is an information literacy tutorial for Spoon River College students.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis guide is based on the Information Literacy Tutorial from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Information Literacy Tutorial by Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. Based on a guide at

Reliability of Websites

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

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?

Databases and The Internet
Use Library Databases When: Use The Internet When:
You need peer-reviewed articles You are willing to evaluate the content of websites. If so, view the Be Your Own Fact Checker guide as a reference.
You want to save time searching for your topic, using filters and Boolean searches You want to access information available on government (.gov) websites
You want to save time looking for the citation information of an article, the author etc. You want to access commercial/business (.com) websites​
You don't want information in a database to disappear overnight like it can on the internet You want to find information on associations, organizations, or groups, or personal web pages related to your topic
You are looking for encyclopedia overviews of your topic You don't mind viewing advertisements



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When should I use a database, and when should I use a search engine?

It depends on the type of information you need.
If you want to know how depression affects self-care in diabetes patients, your best option is to use a library database. 
• If you want data from the most recent Census, using a search engine to find the appropriate government website will work.  

More About Types of Websites

There's more to web addresses than we typically think. The end of the URL or web address is called the domain name. Looking at the domain name is one way to tell what the website is about. It might give you an idea of why the site was produced.

Business Presence 
These websites are trying to sell something, their addresses end in .com(commercial)

  •  Amazon (

Generally this domain name is used for non-profit organizations, but they still are pushing an agenda so be cautious. Their web addresses end (organization)

  •  PETA (

These websites present factual information,their addresses end in .edu or .gov (education or government)

  •  Spoon River College (
  •  State of Illinois (

These sites present current information. Their web address often ends with .com (commercial)

  • The Washington Post (

Search Tip It is still important to evaluate sites ending in .org and .edu, just because they are not .com sites, doesn't mean they might not be published by an individual.  Be critical about what you are reading.