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RELS 4770: Religion and Health (Clare R. van Holm: Fall 2020): Finding Reliable Online Sources

Why Evaluate?

Locating information, whether in traditional print format or in electronic format, is only the first step in doing research. The next step is to evaluate the quality and the usefulness of what you find.

Searching for Digital Collections

To begin searching for reliable sources online, try a search string like this in Google or another search engine, using termsrelevant to your topic, for example:

site:.edu traditional Chinese medicine

site:.edu TCM

You can also try the same search limiting to site:org rather than site:edu BUT:

.EDU = educational institution
.ORG = organization, which can mean almost ANY kind of noncorporate organization. If you aren't familiar with the organization, do some research on it! Who are they? What do they promote? Are they reliable? 

In this era of "fake news," it's important to not just trust a website's About page.

Use Google and other sources to research the authors, organizations, or institutions responsible for the page and for its funding.

(Wikipedia can be useful for getting an overview of an organization)

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For more information about evaluating websites, see the Evaluating Information tab, above.

Evaluating Web Sites

There are a lot of websites on the Internet that may be relevant for your research. You need to be careful, however, as not all Web sites provide authoritative or trustworthy information.

Ask yourself the following questions when evaluating information on freely-available sites:

  • Who is the author of the page/site?
  • What are the credentials of the author (what qualifies them to write on the topic)?
  • Who sponsors the site?
  • What is the purpose of the site - To inform? To entertain? To sell you something? To argue for a certain point of view?
  • Is the information fact or opinion?
  • Does the author/creator/organization have a bias?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Are the sources cited? Where did the author(s) get the information?
  • Can the information on the page be verified with other sources?
  • How current is the information? If it is not current, is it still useful?

Is this Website Credible?