Ensuring the legitimacy of web resources is critical to successful research. Follow these tips to determine a site's trusthworthiness:
1. Determine the author of the site. Look for an "About" section with information on the site's parent organization; if there is no "About," carefully examine the homepage, paying particular attention to the bottom margin for any names or clues. If a provided name (whether of an individual, organization, or institution) is unfamiliar, take the extra minute to Google the name and see what you can find!
2. Pay attention to tone and content: is the information provided fact, opinion, or propaganda?
3. For site content presented as fact, does the author provide sources/references for verification?
4. Check for timeliness. When was the site last update? Are links live and current?
5. Always ask yourself, "Why should I believe this site?"
Reference materials (encyclopedias, atlases, almanacs-- you get the picture) are a great way to both get the basics on your topic AND situate it within a broader context. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Sometimes the best way to hone your topic is to start a broad search in a general database and see where the results lead you-- with the help of the faithful narrowing tools, natch. Check out these general databases when starting your research: