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GOL-105: Physical Geology - Researching National Parks

Evaluate resources

When evaluating either print or online resources for a research assignment or paper, ask the following questions from the evaluation criteria checklist below:

Evaluation Criteria Checklist



  • Who is the author or sponsoring organization?
  • Who is the publisher?
  • Is there contact information?
  • Are the author’s credentials provided?
  • Is biographical information given?


  • Why was the work written?
  • Does the author or sponsor have an agenda?
  • Is there an About link?
  • Is the site personal, commercial, governmental, organizational, or educational? (.com, .gov, .org, .edu)
  • Who is the target audience?
  • Is the information intended to inform, explain, sell, promote, or persuade?


  • Currency:  what is the publication date or last revision?
  • Is the source comprehensive, brief, or unique?
  • Is the material presented as original or secondary?
  • What level is the presentation? (elementary, HS, college)
  • Does the author support the information with works cited or links to other sources?




  • Is the website user-friendly?
  • What kinds of images are used?
  • Is the navigation menu well-labeled?
  • Are there spelling or grammar errors?
  • Do the pages appear uncluttered?
  • Are there ads or pop-ups on the page?
  • Are links working?

The Web contains a wealth of information published by governments, educational institutions, professional organizations, non-profit groups, commercial enterprises, and private individuals all over the world. Since there are no standards for information quality on the Web, not everything you find will be accurate or appropriate to use as research. Generally speaking, you can locate reliable information on authoritative Web sites, such as:

Government agency and department web site url addresses are identified by the .gov domain suffix:

College and university web site url addresses are identified by the .edu domain suffix:

  • Example: Harvard University
  • Excludes student or faculty pages hosted by the educational institution.  

Professional society and non-profit organization web site url addresses are identified by the .org domain suffix:

Beware, not all .org sites are unbiased. There are organizations with Web sites in this category that exist to promote a specific point of view, for example, Planned Parenthood, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or the National Rifle Association.

Commercial or for-profit company web site url addresses are identified by the .com domain suffix:

If it is not obvious the information comes from an authoritative group, look for links such as "About Us," "Who We Are," or "Our Mission" to evaluate the source.