What is the best way to find trustworthy web resources?
Information on the Internet can vary greatly. The ease with which anyone can post something online means that information may or may not be entirely reliable. However, there are a few ways to assure that you find the most trustworthy resources available.
- Start by browsing the Research Guide for your topic. These guides are created by librarians at Babson Library and consolidate all kinds of information on a program, field, or topic. Most include a Finding Websites tab that will include a number of trusted websites related to that discipline.
- Search using Google's Advanced Search options. The additional choices will make sure you find exactly what you're looking for and the Search within a site or domain option at the bottom of the page allows you to search just websites that end in .gov (government agencies), .edu (educational institutions), or .org (nonprofit organizations), all of which are more likely to be reliable.
- Look for "official organization" websites. For example, if you're looking for information about art therapy, look for things like the American Art Therapy Association or the International Art Therapy Organization.
Once you have found a resource that you're interested in using, make sure you evaluate it to make sure it's appropriate to use in your work. Here are some things to look for:
- Authority. Determine the resource's author and who that person is. Is he an expert in the field or a scholar on the topic? Is she qualified? Does the author write for an organization and if so, what is it?
- Accuracy. Make sure to verify the resource's information and that the author has cited information from other sources. Is the information presented well researched or is it an opinion?
- Audience. Who is the author addressing with this information?
- Objectivity. Determine any biases the author or his/her organization might hold. Look for multiple viewpoints and how information is presented (as information or fact). Figure out the company or organization that sponsors the web page and think about if it might have a purpose in presenting this information.
- Currency. Make sure the information is up-to-date. Determine the date the article or resource was written or created, and figure out when the website itself was produced and last updated.
- Coverage. In addition to finding what information the resource is providing, think about what information the resource may NOT be providing. Does it cover all aspects of the topic it claims as expertise? Is more attention paid to some parts of the topic more than others?
While the web can provide useful information and resources that are unavailable elsewhere, it is also a hotbed for inaccurate information. Before using anything you find in your research, be sure to evaluate it as something that is reliable.