Online sources can be a valuable tool if you know how to accurately assess the value and validity of the online information source.
In trying to determine the validity of a webpage, it is useful to see what type of organization publishes the page. Sites ending in .edu or .gov are generally more authoritative than most since they are from academic and governmental organizations. It is important to verify that you are not looking at a student page located on an academic server, which may or may not be as trustworthy as a page produced by the school.
Another element to be cautious of when evaluating your potential source is bias. For example, if you are looking at a commercial site, are they accurately portraying information, or bending the truth to fit their needs?
The next criterion to evaluate is accuracy. Begin by looking for spelling mistakes, poor grammar, and typos.
Next, look at the sources quoted within the page. Are they well-known, trusted sources and people with expertise in the field at hand?
If the page is valid, accurate, and published by a trusted source, then it is generally considered acceptable for research purposes.
Finding Journals and Articles
If you'd like to find out how to locate a specific article or database (maybe one that your professor has recommended), see our guide on How to Find Articles.
Ulrich's Periodicals Directory is another great resource to determine if a journal you are using is considered a scholarly source. It's a directory listing all journals currently in print, and statistics within their database denote which ones are peer reviewed.
Some databases offer a full text feature that links you directly
to an article, so you can download and print it directly off the
Internet. Explore databases that you use regularly to determine if they
have this feature (usually denoted by an "FT" next to the article