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Disability: Using Internet Resources

Checking out Websites

Not all websites are suitable for use in your assignments so you need to choose your sources carefully.  When you are using a website for your studies, it has to satisfy certain criteria.  You should only use reliable, authoritative websites that comply with copyright requirements.  Some of the questions you need to ask about a website are:

  • Who is responsible for the website? 

    • AUTHORITY - It's always preferable to cite a person where possible rather than just a web address and make sure the person has the qualifications to make him or her worth citing.  If you can't find an author, look for the institution sponsoring the website. 
    • BIAS - Do you think a website sponsored by a tobacco company is going to give you unbiased information on smoking?  Is the website for a fashion house a reliable place to find out how well their last season's designs were received? 
    • RELIABILITY - Check out the domain type, e.g. .com websites are usually interested in selling you something; .edu and .gov may be safer options for unbiased information.
    • LEGALITY - Does the website show references for material from other sources?  Does the website display images that it has the right to display?  If you're not sure, check it out.
  • When was the website created or last updated?

Check out the date the information was posted or the date the website was updated.  If a website has not been updated recently, it may mean that the information is not up-to-date or the site is not maintained.

  • Are there any spelling or grammatical mistakes?

This is sometimes an indication that the person writing the website may not have the skills to evaluate and present information.  It also is a sign that the content of the website has not been through an editing process.   

  • Does the writer on the website give good reasons for what he/she says?

In the end, you have to decide whether the information is useful or not.  Does the writer provide evidence to back up what is on the website?  Can you find other places where this is discussed?