Political Science

A guide to resources for researching government and political science

Evaluating Information Resources

One usually must assess the credibility of information, and there are a variety of ways to do this. In the boxes below, we discuss evaluating web sites and other types of information.

Evaluating Web Sites

The credibility of web sites varies widely, and so you will usually have to evaluate the quality of the site. There are a variety of ways to do this. Most of these methods involve examining basic elements of these pages. Here are some of the most useful things to look at:

Web Domain

  • On the Web, the last three letters of the URL, or address, designate what is called the "Top Level Domain."
  • Even if you're not familiar with this term, the letters should be instantly recognizable: .com, .edu, .net and so on.
  • While there are no hard-and-fast rules about credibility and domain types, domain names like .gov, .edu, and .org often tend to be viewed as more credible than .com or .net
  • .edu sites are affiliated with higher educational institutions, and .gov designates government sites. .org indicates an organization.  

"About Us"

  • One of the best clues is the information provided about the people or organizations responsible for the site.
  • The presence of an "About Us" link is itself a promising sign (or more precisely, the absence of one should send up a cautionary note).
  • Once you click on such a link, there are a couple of easy cues to look for.
    • First, the presence of a Board of Directors is usually a good sign. "Joe's House of Conspiracies" isn't going to assemble a Board--Joe is too busy looking for conspiracies.
    • Second, look to see if the people listed have reputable names or positions. Elected officials, officers from large corporations, and others will rarely lend their names to "fly-by-night" or disreputable organizations.


  • Affiliations can be another useful cue.
  • If you're unsure about a web page--or the organization behind it--it can be useful to find that it is affiliated with another organization that is credible.
  • Often this affiliation will be mentioned.
  • If not, searching the page for the names of other organizations can be useful.

What other People have to Say

  • If you have the name of a web page sponsor--but can't find any more information about them--Googling the name can be a useful strategy to find our more.


  • Another simple cue involves the presence or absence of advertising.
  • Generally, sites or pages without ads are considered more credible, but this is not a hard-and-fast rule.

"General Feel"

  • Perhaps the most obvious cue can is the general "feel" of the page.
  • Reputable organizations typically tend to put some degree of effort and thought into their pages, and this should be reflected in the page.
  • Garish colors, lurid graphics, or an overall "cheap" feel to a page should be a clue that perhaps the views expressed haven't received much more effort than the page design.

What is a Credible Information Source?

When you're evaluating web sites and web information, most basically, you are trying to determine credibility--which sites have it, and which sites don't.

But what about non-Web materials? The following types of resources can generally be viewed as credible (but as we will discuss, that doesn't mean you still shouldn't be skeptical in your evaluation and use of information).

Peer Reviewed Materials

  • Most scholarly books and scholarly journals are "peer reviewed."
  • What does that mean? Basically, it's sort of an academic "seal of approval."
  • When a professor or other scholar writes a book or article, it is sent out to "peers"--that is, other scholars, who determine whether it is good enough to be published. 
  • As a result of this, most books and journal articles can be treated as valid for use and citation in your own papers and classwork.

Government Information

  • Government resources rarely go through a formal peer review process (at least not in the same way scholarly works do) but nevertheless they are usually reviewed and edited before being published or posted on a government website.
  • And, perhaps more importantly, they usually reflect the credibility of the government or relevant government agency.
  • Accordingly, information or statistics obtained from official government web sites or other resources are usually valid for citation in your own scholarly work.

But, But, But!

  • Even if a book, article, or other resource has gone through a review process, and has been published or posted, that doesn't mean you can treat it as The Truth.
  • There often are clashing views or perspectives about scholarly topics, and government materials sometimes are affected by ideological or political considerations--
    • for example, a press release from a member of Congress or a presidential administration.
    • Given this, even credible resources should be assessed skeptically, and considered within the broader context of the various materials you have found.
University of Florida Home Page

This page uses Google Analytics - (Google Privacy Policy)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.