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Evaluating Sources: Search Tips

Search Tips & Tools

The first step in using better sources is to get better search results to begin with. Keep in mind that strategies for searching the web may be different than those for searching for articles in databases. Here are a few tips for narrowing your web search results so that they include more reliable sources:

  • Use more specific terms in your search such as "directory," "database," "bibliography," or "facts"
  • Use operators or the advanced search to narrow your search. For example [ pollution site: nytimes.com ] will find results only within the nytimes domain.
  • Use the WHOIS Lookup at DomainTools.com to determine the owner of the site.

Evaluating Results

There are several types of websites that might look reliable on first glance, but should not be used as a source. Be aware of these sites as you evaluate Internet search results:

  • Article Mills/Content Farms - These types of sites churn out hundreds of articles on a huge variety of topics. The articles are short, hastily written, and not very well researched. They may be factually correct, but should not be considered as expert opinion. Examples of such sites are www.ehow.com and www.buzzle.com.
  • Commericial Sites - These sites seem to be informational but ultimately are trying to sell something. For example, take a look at www.mercola.com - while there are news stories and articles, note the products link. The site's main purpose is selling supplements.
  • Hoax Sites - Believe or not, some sites out there contain erroneous information just for fun. Go to www.rythospital.com. Do you think this is a real hospital?
  • Provocative Sites - These sites also seem to be informational at first glance, but they are only presenting one side of the story. They have a very strong point of view about an issue and try to subtlely persuade the reader.