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*Research 101

Internet Sources

The Internet has given us more information at our fingertips than ever before, but that can be a double-edged sword. It can be hard to find resources that are relevant to your research and that also are reliable and appropriate for college-level research.

Most of the Library's Subject Guides will have a section for suggested websites. If you are interested in researching in a particular area, you may find a list of websites that have been reviewed and evaluated by the subject librarians within the guides.

Google is an incredible tool for finding websites. However, many of the websites that you find may not be reliable or authoritative.

When searching Google, you can limit your search to a certain domain. Government sites (official sites published by the U.S. government) end with .gov and educational sites (sites from educational institutions like universities and colleges) end with .edu. These are the two most reliable domains, and by limiting your search to sites with those domains, you can usually retrieve reliable websites.

To limit your search, type site:gov or site:edu at the end of your search in Google. Note that there are no spaces in this. Typing in site: gov (with a space after the colon) will not work.

Google search: tax reform site:gov

Google will typically not allow you to find journal articles, especially peer-reviewed articles. To find these types of sources, you will need to use the Library's resources. For information on using library databases to find articles, view the Finding Articles page.

Wikipedia is one of the most widely used websites, and contains pages on almost any topic. Many students will be tempted to start their research here, but resist the urge! Wikipedia may be fine for your own personal research or to get a feel for a topic, but when it comes to schoolwork, it isn't reliable enough to be used. Because anyone can edit entries with no oversight, you may read information that is outdated, wrong, biased, or malicious. Even Wikipedia acknowledges its weaknesses (see Criticism of Wikipedia and Reliability of Wikipedia). The bottom line is that Wikipedia should not be used as a source of information for any school research paper or assignment.

Evaluating Websites

Use the following five questions to help you critically analyze whether a Web resource is of high-enough quality to use for academic research.


  • Who is the author of this page?
  • Are the author's qualifications clearly stated?
  • Is the author separate from the "webmaster"?
  • Can the author be contacted for clarification?


  • What is the purpose of this site?
  • What topics are covered?
  • What goals/objectives does this resource meet?
  • What opinions are expressed?
  • What is the context in which the information is provided?


  • When was this site created?
  • When was it last updated?


  • Where did the writers obtain their information? Are citations included?
  • What institution published this? Are they reputable?
  • Where can I verify this information?


  • Why is this information useful?
  • Why is this page better than other pages on this topic?

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