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How to Research: Websites

Useful Links

The Web can provide some of the most current and comprehensive information available. However, websites used in academic research must be carefully evaluated for accuracy and authority. Below are some of the most common types of websites used in academic research.

Government Sites

How to Recognize One

  • Domain name usually ends in .gov (US government) or .mil (US military). Some government-sponsored sites may end in .com or .org as well.
  • The name of the government department responsible for the site should be clearly displayed

Useful For

  • Current and archived (historical) statistics on a variety of topics
  • National and local demographic information
  • Access to government-funded research data
  • Free, publicly accessible information

Points to Consider

  • Not all government information will be retrieved in a general Internet search. You may search the appropriate department's website directly.
  • Information published by the government if often cited differently than other information. Consult the appropriate style manual for directions about citing government information.

How to Search for Government websites

  • Consider the type of information you are looking for. Does the government have an agency, bureau, or department relevant to that subject?
  • Use Google's Advanced Search option to search within a specific site or domain suffix, or try a Google US Government search.

School & University Sites

How to Recognize One

  • Domain name ends in .edu (college & university), .us (some K-12 public schools)
  • The name of the institution and department responsible for the site should be clearly displayed

Useful For

  • Scholarly information about a wide variety of topics
  • Free access to research papers, criticism, data, and other academic publications

Points to Consider

  • Even if the site ends in .edu, investigate the author or group responsible for the site. Is this a personal Web page? If it is a student project, has the content been checked for accuracy?
  • The most reliable sites will clearly display the name(s) of the authors, contact information, and academic credentials. If you can't find this information, you may need to reconsider using the source.

How to Search for School & University Sites

  • Many schools and university sites can be found using a search engine, such as Google. Try the Advanced Search feature to search a specific site or domain suffix. 
  • Educational sites often link to other sites that can provide additional information on a topic. Be sure to check out any links available on a site you find useful.
  • Use sites like the Librarians' Internet Index or the Internet Public Library for links to education Web sites organized by subject.

News Sites

How to Recognize One

  • A reputable news site will have its name and contact information clearly displayed. For academic research, use sites of publications you are familiar with and know to be reliable.

Useful For

  • Finding the most current information available, especially for developing topics of national or local interest
  • Supplemental information, articles, and opinions which may not be available in the print version of a publication

Points to Consider

  • News articles are often written by professional journalists, not experts in the field. What are the author's qualifications to write about the topic? Have they done a sufficient amount of reliable background research? What facts do they use to support the content of the article?
  • Web content comes in many forms, from traditional articles to blog posts to Twitter feeds. Consider if the information is published in a professional, reliable manner.

How to Search for News Sites

  • Use a search engine to find the website of a particular publication. Use a specialty news search engine, such as Google News, to search for the latest news articles on a particular topic.