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Distance Learning: Websites

This guide offers an introduction to library services; tools and tips for research, writing, and citation; and key resources for distance education students.

Evaluate Your Sources

When searching online, it's important to carefully evaluate the results. Almost anyone can have a webpage, and information on the web may be may be biased, undocumented, or just plain wrong. Here are some things to consider when deciding whether or not to use a particular source.

Accuracy

  • If sources are cited, are they reliable?
  • How does the information compare with that in other sources on the topic?
  • Can the information be verified by other sources?
  • Is the information free of factual errors?
  • Are there spelling, typographical or grammatical errors?

Audience

  • Who are the intended readers?  Who are the authors/creators trying to reach?
  • Are the language, vocabulary, style and tone appropriate for the intended audience?
  • What are the audience demographics? (age, educational level, etc.)
  • Are the authors/creators targeting a particular group or segment of society?

Authority

  • Who wrote the information?
  • What are the authors’/ creators’ credentials for this particular topic?
  • Are the authors/creators affiliated with a particular organization or institution?  What does that affiliation suggest about the authors/creators?
  • Is the publisher/sponsor of the source reputable?
  • Are the authors’/creators’ information provided so that you may submit questions or feedback?

Currency

  • Is the content current?  Does the date of the information directly affect the accuracy or usefulness of the information?
  • When was the content first uploaded, last modified or updated?  Are there ‘dead’ links within the source?

Objectivity/Bias

  • What is the authors’/creators’ point of view?
  • Is the point of view subtle or explicit?
  • Is the information presented as fact or opinion?
  • If opinion, is the opinion supported by credible data or informed argument?
  • Is the information one-sided? Are alternate views represented?
  • Does the point of view effect how you view the information?

Purpose

  • What is the authors’/creators’ purpose or objective?  To explain, provide new information or news, entertain, persuade or sell?
  • Does the source achieve effectively its purpose?
Source: Web Evaluation, Auburn University Libraries. Reproduced with permission.

Beyond Google

Google is great, but there are lots of different ways to search. You can apply these strategies no matter which tool you use.

Web Search Strategies in Plain English from leelefever on Vimeo.

Google Tips & Tricks

Did you know you can limit your Google search results by color? Use Google to search The Crimson White? Learn more about the world's most popular search engine.