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English: Using the Web

Evaluating web sources

Anyone can put information on the web, so how can we tell if it's reliable and accurate?

Think about these questions:

  • Who is the author?  Do they have qualifications/a reputation in the relevant area?
  • Is the web site affiliated with an organisation?  If so, what is the mission of that organisation?
  • Has the information been properly referenced?  Are the references authoritative?
  • When was the site last updated?
  • Is there any reason for bias on this web site?
  • Has the website been well presented in an appropriately academic style?
  • Has anyone recommended this web site to you?
  • Does the information match what you have learned from other sources?

Social Media


Social media can include any of the following:

  • Blogs
  • Discussion forums
  • Microblogs (i.e. Twitter)
  • News aggregators (i.e. Digg)
  • Photo sharing
  • Podcasts
  • RSS
  • Social networks
  • Video sharing
  • Wikis

All of these types of social media have their own merits and drawbacks when searching for information. As the field is still growing, there is an abundance of ways to use these sites.

Some sites you could use in your studies or research include:

Follow these links for information on how use social media in your studies or research:

Getting the most out of Google

Google LogoDo you sometimes struggle to find what you need on Google?

Improve your search!

There are a number of ways you can explain more clearly to Google exactly what you're looking for.  Use Google Advanced Search or learn some of the more useful operators:


The following web sites will give you more information:


Not finding enough academic resources with a simple Google search?

Try searching in different places...

Wikipedia - good or bad?

Wikipedia logoWikipedia is a free online encyclopedia, written collaboratively by anyone who wishes to contribute. Many people are constantly editing Wikipedia, making thousands of changes per hour. For more information, see About Wikipedia.

Anyone with access to the internet can edit almost every page, and this is both the strength and the weakness of the site: 

  • Because there are so many people willing to freely give their time and expertise to Wikipedia, the content can be an excellent introduction to a topic, well-referenced, and mistakes are often corrected quickly. 
  • However, because edits can be made anonymously, we cannot know whether the author is an expert on the subject or whether they have a particular agenda to push.

Wikipedia is not considered to be a suitably authoritative source of information for academic study.

It is not a good idea to reference Wikipedia in your assignments. If you choose to use Wikipedia as a starting point for your topic, however, the article will introduce you to the key vocabulary for the topic (useful for further searching), you can read the comments in the "Talk" tab to get an idea of how controversial aspects of the topic are, and the references will guide you to other sources of information on the topic (but please also look elsewhere, such as Library SmartSearch!).

For guidance on how to evaluate the quality of Wikipedia articles, see Evaluating Wikipedia article quality.

Aston Research Explorer

Latest additions to Aston Research Explorer from members of LSS: