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Legal Research Manual

This edition of Legal Research Manual builds on many previous editions. While the manual is designed principally for use with the first year legal research classes, upper year law students will also find it a useful reference.

Evaluating Online Information

The relative ease with which information can be presented on the internet and the volume of information presently available creates a morass of networked data that contains valuable nuggets buried in an incredible amount of junk. In looking for information on the internet, we need to use the same critical evaluative skills that we would use in looking at a book, a news site, a paper index, or on a commercial database.

Websites should be evaluated for the relevance, accuracy and authority of the information provided. For more detailed information about evaluating websites, consult guides such as UC Berkeley Library's Evaluating Resources.

Some of the questions a researcher should ask include:

  • Does the site claim to represent a group, an organization, an institution, a corporation or a governmental body?
  • Does the site offer a selected list of resources in a particular discipline or does it claim to offer a complete list?
  • Does the site refer to print and other types of resources or just online resources?
  • If a selective list is offered, are criteria provided describing how the list of resources was chosen?
  • Is an explanation provided for the use of particular criteria?
  • Who designed the criteria used in selecting items for this site (if any), and who selected the items listed?
  • Does the site claim to describe or provide the results of research or scholarly effort?
  • Are sufficient references provided to other works to document hypotheses, claims or assertions?
  • Are references cited fully?
  • Can the results be refuted or verified through other means--e.g., by use of library-related research tools?
  • Is any sort of third-party financial support or sponsorship evident?
  • Does the site have advertising, and if so, has it had an impact on the content?
  • Is the site officially or unofficially sponsored or supported by particular groups, organizations, institutions, corporations or governmental bodies?
  • Can the authors or sponsors be verified as such, and what are their qualifications?
  • How up-to-date is the study or the site?
  • Are results of research studies reported in the style expected for that discipline?
  • Are references provided in the style normally used for documentation in that discipline?