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Verifying Sources - "Is This a Real Website?": Home

You know you need to cite your sources, but do you know if your source is real or not? This guide will help the user determine if the website or source that they've "uncovered" is in fact reliable.

Lateral Reading

There are several avenues researchers can use to determine if a website is real and contains credible information.  One such method is lateral reading.  Lateral reading is a method of investigating the information found on a website.  Lateral Reading is "the act of verifying what you are reading while you are reading it."  To research whether or not the information on any given web page is accurate and/or beneficial, the reader must research the page.  The reader will do so by opening other web pages to investigate information listed on the primary page.  The reader will likely begin their investigation on Google.  

For example, if I am researching family-friendly dog breeds and come across this, how do I know that this information is trustworthy?  Using Lateral Reading, I would open a new page and Google the producer of the site.  If I have additional questions about the producer or any information regarding the content of the site, I would open an additional window to do more research.  I would continue researching in this manner until I am confident that this site is legit (or not).  



Terry Heick, What's the difference between Lateral Reading and Vertical Reading?, THIS IS THE FUTURE AND READING IS DIFFERENT THAN YOU REMEMBER BLOG, (last visited August 1, 2022). 

Examples of "Fake" Sites

This web address should make any user pause.  At times a number is used immediately after www; however, a site concerning federal government information (federal student aid) will end in .gov.

A site that is blocked by a firewall or cyber security system is likely not a legitimate site.  If the user still believes the site to be legitimate they should proceed with caution and verify all information on the site.  Also, a site pertaining to the federal government (the White House) will end in .gov. ​​​​​​

This web address does not end in .gov.

Reliable Sources


CALI (Computer Assisted Legal Instruction) offers computer based legal tutorials on a wide variety of topics.  CALI can be accessed through the library's Databases and Links tab on the library's main page.  

Evaluating Websites is a lesson that teaches students about what to check for to determine the credibility of a website.  

Remember CASA:

CURRENCY - How current is the information being presented?  Scroll to the bottom of the page to find the "updated last" date. Sometimes different pages of the same website will have different updated last dates.  That's okay.  The point is to make sure the information is in fact being updated. 

AUTHORITY - Who authored or designed this page and are they trustworthy? If you the author of the site is known to you, the question is do you trust the information that is being shared.  However, if you are on a source in which the author is unknown to you, then investigate the author.  Search the site to find out who the author is, then research the author to determine if that person or organization is credible.  Trustworthiness cannot be determined by just looking at the site, look into the background of the author. 

SCOPE - Breadth of coverage and how does the website fit your specific needs? 

ACCURACY - Is the information being presented accurate? Research the information that you find on the site.  Is it accurate information?  If you search other sites will you see the same information being presented on the initial website. Is the information being presented trying to persuade the reader to a specific conclusion or merely providing information for the reader to do what they want with it. 

Web addresses typically end in .com, .gov, .org, .edu: 

A .com indicates that the site is generally used for commercial websites.

A .gov indicates that the site is generally used for government websites. 

A .org indicates that the site is generally used for non-profit websites. 

A .edu is typically used for educational purposes.