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General Sources for Basic Library Research

General, all-purpose sources for basic library research, suitable for a variety of topics.

Search Engines

These are more likely to return sites from credible sources.  They save time by automatically filtering out poor quality material so you don't have to.

When to Use Resources Found on the Internet

Use Internet Sources when:

You are prepared to evaluate the credibility of what you find

Much of the internet is opinion, undocumented, or otherwise not suitable for academic research.  While good information can be found on the internet, it is mixed in with poorer quality material.  Be prepared to spend time weeding the bad from the good.

You need Popular Culture or very current information

You know the website you are searching is credible

See Evaluating Web Sites above, or use one of the recommended Search Engines on the page.

Evaluating Web Sites

Evaluating Web Sites: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and How to Tell the Difference


  • Is the page signed, i.e. does it give an author's name?
  • Are the author's credentials given?
  • Who is the sponsoring agency?
            URL can provide clues: .edu, .gov, .org

Reasons for consideration:

  • Anyone can publish anything on the Internet.
  • Internet bypasses traditional publishing steps of fact checking, peer review, editor's revisions, etc.
  • The Web has no standards for information that it carries.

Questionable site:
The author is an editor but does not appear to have any medical credentials.  The "sources" either don't work or are invitations to buy books from Amazon or from this company.  The site sells natural supplements and hence has an interest in information that support its products.

Good site:
This information comes directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a government research organization.  Cites are to reputable sources in medical journals. 



  • What is its purpose (to inform, persuade, sell, entertain?)
  • Any bias or hidden agenda?
  • Clues to objectivity: authority, presence of ads

Reasons for consideration:

  • Internet is often used as a soapbox.
  • Internet tends to blur distinctions between advertising, opinion, and facts.

Questionable site:
The information is probably true but is likely to be biased since it comes from the subject's own personal page.

Good site:
Information is provided by a non-partisan organization.



  • Accurate (authoritative source; references cited)
  • Appropriate to audience
  • Has the needed depth and breadth
  • Currency (Does the page have a stated date?)
               Note:  There is a difference between Date created v. date posted v. date updated

Reasons for consideration:

  • Remember that anyone can publish anything on the Internet.
  • Standard print indicators of content - like table of contents, preface, publication dates - are often absent on the Internet, so one must examine content directly.

Questionable site:
The information seems legitimate until you realize it comes from the same point of view.  Organization has a distinct bias masquerading as informed educational content.  Circular cites only reinforce each other

Good site:
Although it has a purposeful message, it cites primary documents and videos to make its point.  The sources include academic sources, and the About page points to verified scholarly activities in which the museum participates.


Ease of Use

  • Logical organization
  • Intuitive operation
  • Do you know where you are or do you get lost in the links?
  • User aids: link back to the home page
                       Site map
                       Search function for the site

Reasons for consideration:

  • Authors do not always take the time to make their site user-friendly.
  • Web authors often emphasize what is "cool" over what is useful.
  • If a site is hard to use, it will not be used.

Questionable site:
Page is a huge list of links, and is very hard to read and navigate

Good site:
Information is organized into self-explanatory categories; page offers a site organization map, a browse feather, and a search function for further assistance.