LEOLEO: Literacy Education Online

Assessing the Credibility of Online Sources

As online technology rapidly develops, the criteria for evaluating these sources develops as well. Online sources are so new that their status as academic sources is not fully established; therefore, you should verify that your professor will accept online sources before you invest time in browsing the Web or assessing the credibility of sources you find there.

Once you've determined that online sources can be used, you'll still need to assess their credibility. The following criteria for assessing online sources will help you to determine whether electronic sources are both professional and appropriate for your paper. Keep in mind as you review these criteria that many are based on standards used for traditional print sources; others are clearly relevant for electronic sources only.

Assessing an online source

Authorship Perspectives
Publishing Body/PublisherCoverage
Currency Accuracy or Verifiability

  • Authorship

  • Publishing Body/Publisher

  • Currency

  • Perspectives

  • Coverage

  • Accuracy or verifiability

    A few cautionary notes on saving Web materials

    Saving to disk or printing a copy of the "pages" you plan to use as source material is a good idea for two reasons. First, if the site is taken off the Web, the source material will still be available to you. Second, you can use this print or disk copy of the "pages" to enable readers to verify the credibility of the site if they're unable for any reason to access it online. If you print a hard copy of the pages, go to page layout on your computer and specify that you want the date you accessed the site, the name of the site, and the URL to appear in the header or footer of the hard copy. If you save your copy of these pages to disk, add this information to your file copy so that it's available when you're ready to document your source.

    Finally, go back to the print source if possible. Use and document this version since the print copy is still considered by many to be the authoritative version of the resource for academic purposes.


    Alexander, Jan and Marsha Tate. "Evaluating Web Resources."15 Feb. 2004.

    Grassian, Esther. "Thinking Critically about World Wide Web Resources." 15 Feb. 2004.

    Irvine, Martin. Web Works. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1997.

    Kirk, Elizabeth E. "Evaluating Information Found on the Internet." 1996. Sheridan Libraries. 2004.


    For additional references on assessing Internet sources, see the "Webliography

    on Validating Web Sites" available at http://web.stcloudstate.edu/jmkilborn/webvalidation.html.

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    For questions and suggestions, please e-mail Judith Kilborn.

    © 1997-2005, The Write Place
    LEO: Literacy Education Online

    This handout was adapted from the above references by Kaaren Struthers for the Write Place and LEO, St. Cloud State University. It was updated by Judith Kilborn. This document may be copied for educational purposes only. If you copy this document, please include our copyright notice and the name of the writer; if you revise it, please add your name to the list of writers.

    Last update: 7 January 2005

    URL: http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/research/credibility1.html