Ugly Library Tools

Evaluating Web Sources

Sometimes, your research topic can be so new or so obscure that you will have to rely on the Internet to find information about it. The Web is also a good place to find background information, data, statistics, and opinions about a topic.

Here we will show you how to evaluate information you may find on the web, both after your search and even before googling your topic.

Evaluating After Searching

First, let's take a look at how to evaluate our search result after we google a topic. The picture below shows a screen shot of a Google search result for the topic of homelessness

image web results

When you see your results, look for the following useful information:

Title

A website's title should be able to tell it's audience right away what the web page is about.

Summary/Abstract

On the web, unlike library databases, the summary or abstract could be an actual summary of the web page, or simply the beginning of the article.

Date

If you find something promising, make sure the date of publication meets your assignment needs and your instructor's requirements. For example: an older article could be very useful for a history paper but of very little relevance for a current events essay.

Domain

A domain can tell you a lot about a website. Depending on the domain, the information you find can come from a personal or commercial website (.com), a non-for-profit organization (.org), a government agency (.gov), an educational institution (.edu), or the military (.mil) among other domains.


Evaluating Before Searching

Another way to make getting information from the web more effective is to set parameters before executing a search

Domain specific searches (site: domain)

The site: delimiter allows users to search for information within a single domain. For example, if you only want to get information on homelessness from educational websites, you can do the following:

homelessness site:.edu

When you type the terms above and click the search button, the searhc engine will retrieve any websites that contain the word "homelessness" as long as it comes from an educational website.

Searching within a website (site: website URL)

Many websites, especially large ones like news organizations and government institutions, can be hard to navigate and search due to their size. Fortunately, we can search withon a single website using the "site:" delimiter, as in the example below:

homelessness site:nytimes.com

When you click the Search button, you will get back articles on homelessness from within the New York Times website only.

Making sure all keywords appear in title (allintitle: keywords)

In order to make sure our search results are as relevant to our purposes as possible, it is sometimes a good idea to tell Google to make sure all our keywords appear in the title. We can accomplish that by using the "allintitle:" delimiter.

allintitle:homelessness Portland

By doing this, we can make sure all our search results are as relevant as possible. However, using this delimiter could keep you away from good information, use with care.