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History 111: Websites

Using the Internet to Find Primary Sources

In addition to library resources, the Internet can be helpful in finding primary sources for history assignments. Below are some useful links for understanding and evaluating primary source material, as well as a few digital primary source collections.

Evaluating Websites

 

The web is a great information resource. There is so much information out there you can usually find some information on your topic. However, because anyone can put anything on the web you need to be very careful when using the web as a research source.

You can use the following checklist to help you to determine the reliability of the information you find on a website.

checkACCURACY

  • Is the information reliable and correct?
  • Is there an editor who verifies the information?

AUTHORITY

  • Is there an author? What are his or her qualifications?
  • What is the sponsoring organization? Is it reputable?

Hint: Look for links providing information about the author and his or her e-mail address. Check for "about us," "philosophy," etc. for information about the organization.

checkOBJECTIVITY

  • Does the website show a bias?
  • Is there advertising on the page? 
  • What is the purpose of the site? To sell, to inform, to persuade?

CURRENCY

  • Does the site include the dates it was created and updated?
  • How current are the links? Have any expired or moved?

Consider if currency is especially important for your research topic.

checkCOVERAGE

  • How does the site compare with other sites on this topic?
  • Is material covered in depth rather than superficially?

Google Search Tips

Google makes it simple to find the information you need, but you can find higher quality sources by adding site: and any of the domain names (.edu, .gov, .org, etc.) to your search.

Example:

Let's say you want to search for information on childhood nutrition and limit your results to .edu websites only.

In the Google search box enter: childhood nutrition site: .edu   This will return search results from educational websites only.