Islam and Muslim Americans

Web Resources

Organizations

Evaluating Sources & Searching the Web

evaluation signEvaluating Sources 

Not all resources are created equal! There are a number of criteria to consider when determining whether or not a source is reliable (able to be trusted) and appropriate for your academic work.

  1. Authorship

  • Who is the author?
  • What makes the author an expert in the field they are writing about? What are their qualifications? Do they have education or work experience in the field? Do they have firsthand experience? Have they published anything else about the subject? (HINT: Google the name of the author to find this information).
  • If there isn't an author listed, is the information authored by a government, corporate, or non-profit agency?  Is the agency or organization recognized in the field in which you are studying, and is it suitable to address your topic?
  1. Point of View or Bias

  • Does the source promote one point of view or one agenda?
  • Is the information provided as fact or opinion?
  • If the information is found online, does the Web site have advertisements? If so, are the ads part of or separate from the rest of the site?
  1. Currency

  • Does your topic require current information?
  • Does the source include a date of publication or a "last updated" date?
  1. References to Other Sources

  • Does the source include a bibliography or links to other web sites?
  • What types of sources are cited (primary/secondary, popular/scholarly, current/historical, etc.)
  1. Relevance to Topic and Assignment

  • Is the information you found related to and useful for your topic and assignment?
  • Is the source the appropriate type for your needs?  For example, do you need a book or a scholarly journal article? Do you need primary or secondary sources of information?
  • Is the information too broad or too specific?

Image source:  "Evaluation" by NY is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Limit to specific domains in when searching Google

Limiting the domain of the websites you're searching in Google is one of the quickest ways to narrow your results and find more credible resources quickly! URL domains can be clues to a site's reliability and ownership.

Common URL domains:
  • .com = commercial (ads & pop-ups)
  • .gov = U.S. government (official agencies)
  • .mil = U.S. military
  • .edu = educational (colleges & universities)
  • .org = organization (could be non-profit or for-profit, can be informative but often biased)
  • .net = network (could be almost anything, including personal websites)
  • .info = information (generic domain, no criteria needed for companies or individuals to use)
  • .biz = business (an alternative to .com)
You can also limit your searches, like through a Google search, by using the "site:" search shortcut. 
"Site searching" examples:

(click on image to enlarge)

sample site search limiting the domain to educational websites

  • politics in art site:edu (would find educational resources on this topic)
  • politics in art site:gov (would find U.S. government resources on this topic)
  • Note that there are NO spaces before or after the colon after the word "site"
(Click on video to open in another window)
Source: "Searching Google Effectively" by Joshua Vossler, UWF Libraries, Educational use.

Use different information resources to find different kinds of information.

Reference book articles, or academic encyclopedias, are a great place to start. Go to reference for background knowledge, theoretical terms, an overview of the history of a subject or issues, key players - and leads to more information.

example of sources 
Reference book articles, or academic encyclopedias, are a great place to start.
Read reference for:
  • background knowledge
  • theoretical terms
  • an overview of the history of a subject or issues
  • key players
  • leads to more information.
image of an encyclopedia book cover
Read books, book chapters, and essays in anthologies for:
  • in-depth analysis
  • history
  • opinion
  • theory
  • multiple perspectives
image of a book
Read newspaper articles for:
  • a daily account of events and issues on a local, regional, national or international scale
  • analysis of current issues
  • editorial and opinion pieces
  • business, environment and science news
image of newspapers
Read magazine articles for:
  • more in-depth discussion of current events and issues in the news
  • longer articles written for an interested audience in lay-person language on technology, health, science, business and more
  • illustrations: charts, pictures and graphs
magazine cover - bloomberg business week
View and listen to multimedia for:
  • documentaries on current science, engineering and business topics
  • informed discussion and analysis
  • case studies & personal accounts
  • background information
image of a video online
Read trade articles to learn about:
  • news briefs or overviews of current research and tools
  • current trends and updates in the profession
  • professional terminology
  • opinion on governmental policy, current issues, and more
  • professional development
  • to find leads to more information on your subject
professional journal: security management
Read scholarly articles and books to learn about:
  • current research
  • in-depth analysis
  • metareviews of the literature
  • professional terminology
  • find data, statistics, charts, and other factual information
  • to get a sense of the scope of the scholarly conversation on your subject
  • to find leads to more information on your subject
image of Chemical Engineering Journal cover

Some featured sources

Articles from the Web

Consider the links to the sources below. Be sure to also consider the other pages in this guide for other online article links and suggestions to search.