Skip to main content

RELG 252: The Judeo-Christian Tradition Course Guide: Evaluating Sources

Resources for Gosnell's RELG 252 students

Internet Tips

The internet has a lot of great information - but also a lot of bad information. It's easy to get bogged down when trying to sort one from the other. Try the following tips to make searching and using internet resources easier!

  • Know what domains mean.

    Anyone in the world can own most domain endings, such as .com and .org. A .org site does not mean that the site is run by an organization, or that the information is trustworthy. Two domains endings you can usually trust: .gov, or, are always government-owned websites; .edu are always school-based websites.

  • Use the advanced search.

    Google has an advanced search option that lets you be more specific in your search. Tell it NOT to find pages that use certain words. Tell it to find pages from certain dates. Most usefully, tell it to find pages that have a certain domain ending.

  • Let other people help judge the quality for you.

    Don't do all the hard work yourself! If you've found a website you really trust - maybe a government site, or the site of a well-known and respected organization - check out their links pages. You can also use great resources like the Internet Public Library to search through pre-judged webpages. Be careful, though - you should always have your critical thinking and judgement engaged when using the web.


Currency: the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
         examples: .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government),
                             .org (nonprofit organization), or .net (network)

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content, and

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?