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Research Skills: How to Evaluate Information on the Internet

A step-by-step approach to ensure that you possess the key skills required to find, retrieve and evaluate information on your research topic.

Applying Evaluation Criteria

Authorship on the Internet is, generally speaking, open and unregulated. 

When you use a Search Engine like Google, for example, you will retrieve information published on the Internet that is written by members of the public of all ages, by companies and private commercial enterprises, by organisations, by governments, by institutions and by scholarly authors, to name only a few.

Some of the information will be authoritative and peer reviewed, and some of it will be published without any quality control at all.

 Online information is published for many different purposes: to encourage the reader to buy a product, to inform, to amuse, to inspire, to teach, to explain, to deceive, to persuade, to help – and as a researcher you need to scrutinise and critically evaluate search results as  they can greatly affect the validity and reliability of your own research. 


Below are some of the criteria you may apply to evaluate the quality and trustworthiness of the information you will find when searching the Internet


  • The research results should meet  the needs of the researcher in terms of accuracy, reliability, currency and relevance to the topic


  •  The source of the information should be identified in terms of  authors , organisations and publishers


  • The reputation of the source of the information, that is, is the reputation of the author or the organisation, should be verified


  •  Search results should be critically evaluated in terms of  accuracy, objectivity and unbiased content


  • Search results should meet the needs of the researcher in terms of the comprehensiveness of the topic covered


  • Search results should indicate the data collection methods and research methodology used in the research


  • Search results should be presented in clear academic language according to the author specifications and scope of the publisher
  • The results should be presented in a structured format or style that could include an introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, conclusion and reference list.


  • Search results should be current to the information needs of the researcher, valid to the topic and available online