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Evaluating Websites and Other Sources

Strategies to help identify trustworthy and reliable information.

The Two Big Questions

Answering two big questions about any information can give us a good idea of how credible and reliable it may be:

WHO wrote/sponsored it?

  • Is the author an expert in the field or just someone relaying their personal experience? Is it a company or a person? 
  • Do they have any credentials (like a degree, certification, or training, or extensive experience) that indicates they've studied the topic, worked in the field, or have recognized expertise?

WHAT do they want me to do with the information?

  • Is the purpose to sellpersuadeentertain, or inform?
  • Does it seem objective and impartial? Does it acknowledge conflicting information or opposing viewpoints?
  • Are there lots of words and images that are designed to appeal to your emotions?
  • Is advertising incorporated with the information?
  • Is a political, ideological, religious, cultural, or institutional point being made?

Lateral Searching

Sometimes it's hard to tell who is responsible for the content on a website.

When this is the case, the best strategy is to do a little investigation on what information you CAN find. 

For instance, if we go to the site, it looks very much like an informational site about asthma. The home page has facts about asthma, tips for managing the condition, and resources for parents. It looks and feels credible, but is it?


Scrolling to the bottom, however, we find very little information about the authors, only that the site is "funded and developed by GSK." Clicking on "Contact Us" doesn't give us much more help either.

This is when we want to open a new tab and Google GSK (this is where Google and Wikipedia can actually be helpful).

We find out quickly that "GSK" is GlaxoSmithKline, a pharmaceutical company that manufactures asthma drugs. Taking a quick look a the Wikipedia article on GlaxoSmithKline, we also find out that while they research new drug treatments for a variety of conditions, they also have a history of criminal and civil violations in a number of countries.

So a site that looks like it is informing, is actually selling. This puts the information we find here in a much different light. 

When you need need quality, credible information, you may need to "think like a fact-checker" and do a little investigation - open a new tab, Google the author, site, or sponsor, and see what you can find.

Lateral Reading Crash Course

To cite this LibGuide use the following templates:

APA: Northern Essex Community College Library. (Date updated). Title of page. Title of LibGuide. URL

MLA: Northern Essex Community College Library. "Title of Page." Title of LibGuide, Date updated, URL.