Finding Veritable Online Sources: A...

Finding Veritable Online Sources: A Guide for High School Students (French version available)

by Sarah Leung
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

The internet provides a great source of knowledge. It displays itself as approachable, yet deceiving, with its global accessibility. Anyone can publish and read information on the internet, but the difficulty comes with identifying good resources.

Below are five questions secondary students should ask themselves when evaluating websites. By considering the background, similarities, and recency of sources, it speeds up the verification process. While not foolproof, these questions provide good indicators of what kinds of resources should be used.

  1. Who is the Author?

This sounds simple on paper: who wrote the article? Taking note of the author’s name is not enough. Evaluate the company that they may work with, their credentials such as education, and their job title.

This CTV News article, “Nearly all of B.C. under weather advisory amid first heatwave of the summer,” makes it easy to see the authors’ credentials.

The authors are Tahmina Aziz and Regan Hasegawa: two individuals who have their job titles clearly listed in the article. They are multi-media journalists at CTV News Vancouver, an award-winning local news station.

While these two are journalists and not climate specialists, they interview individuals who are well-versed in the field. This is a veritable source covering the start of extreme heat in B.C., from educated journalists, backed up by professionals in areas relevant to the topic.

  1. What is the Website?

What sort of website published the source? Sometimes URL endings can give hints as to what kind of website it is:

  • Educational institutions have “.edu” (this applies outside of Canada, as Canadian institutions use “.ca”)
  • Sections of government have “.gov” (this applies outside of Canada, as the Canadian government uses “.ca”)
  • Organizations or charities have “.org”
  • Canadian websites have “.ca”
  • Commercial businesses have “.com”

For example, https://www.harvard.edu is the official website of Harvard University. It ends in “.edu,” signifying that it is a post-secondary institution outside of Canada.

  1. What is the Purpose?

What is the purpose of the article? Is it to inform, to entertain, or to create a discussion? The Purdue Writing Lab has a page on purposes that groups purposes based on being informative or being persuasive.

When an author writes to inform, they intend to teach the audience about a topic. When an author writes to persuade, they intend to sway the audience to their perspective about a topic.

Tom Mulcair uses his experience as a former leader of the federal New Democratic Party of Canada to give his opinion in “Trudeau’s phony war against climate change.” He outlines the prime minister’s promises towards fighting climate change, but Mulcair wants the audience to come away with the perspective that this is not guaranteed.

In contrast, Nia Williams and Ismail Shakil’s article “Canada lays out C$9.1 bln roadmap to meet 2030 climate targets” is strictly informative. The authors do not give their personal opinions on the situation.

  1. Are Other Sources Similar?

Look for other sources that cover the same topic: do the other sources display the topic in a similar way?

To showcase how to compare sources, I picked three articles on recent summer heat waves across Europe. All sites are from different geographical areas: the UK, the US, and Canada.

All these sources discuss climate change (to varying degrees) as a large factor in Europe’s summer heat waves. None of these sources sugarcoat the implications and keep a serious tone intact.

  1. How Recent is the Information?

Many websites will list the publication date and/or a date when the article was last updated. If no dates are available, try clicking links in the article (if they are there), or links on the website. If any links are broken or incorrect, it’s likely a sign to look for another source.

Examples of publication dates and updates can be found in these two articles below:



Aziz, Tahmina, and Regan Hasegawa. “Nearly All of B.C. under Weather Advisory amid First Heatwave of the Summer.” CTV News, 24 June 2022, https://bc.ctvnews.ca/nearly-all-of-b-c-under-weather-advisory-amid-first-heatwave-of-the-summer-1.5961625. Accessed 30 July 2022.

Clark Librarians. “Evaluating Information: SIFT (The Four Moves).” Research Guides at Clark College Libraries, Clark College Libraries, 27 Sept. 2021, https://clark.libguides.com/evaluating-information/SIFT. Accessed 30 July 2022.

“Climate Change Evident across Europe, Confirming Urgent Need for Adaptation.” European Environment Agency, 16 Dec. 2016, https://www.eea.europa.eu/media/newsreleases/climate-change-evident-across-europe. Accessed 30 July 2022.

“Evaluating Information Sources: Websites.” Research Guides at University of Waterloo, University of Waterloo, 15 July 2022, https://subjectguides.uwaterloo.ca/infosources/websites. Accessed 30 July 2022.

“FAQ: How Do I Know If My Sources Are Credible/Reliable?” Library Guides at University of Washington, University of Washington, 23 June 2022, https://guides.lib.uw.edu/research/faq/reliable. Accessed 30 July 2022.

Fountain, Henry. “Why Europe Is Becoming a Heat Wave Hot Spot.” The New York Times, 18 July 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/19/climate/europe-heat-wave-science.html. Accessed 30 July 2022.

Goldenberg, Suzanne. “Climate Change Could Make Canada’s Traditional Ice Hockey Extinct.” The Guardian, 5 Mar. 2012, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/mar/05/canada-climate-change-ice-hockey. Accessed 30 July 2022.

Mortillaro, Nicole. “European Heat Wave Isn’t a Surprise — It’s a Warning of What Inaction Could Mean for Our Future.” CBC News, 19 July 2022, https://www.cbc.ca/news/science/europe-heat-wave-no-surprise-1.6524404. Accessed 30 July 2022.

Mulcair, Tom. “Tom Mulcair: Trudeau’s Phony War against Climate Change.” CTV News, 5 Apr. 2022, https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/tom-mulcair-trudeau-s-phony-war-against-climate-change-1.5848812. Accessed 30 July, 2022.

“Purposes.” Purdue Writing Lab, https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/rhetorical_situation/purposes.html. Accessed 30 July 2022.

Rowlatt, Justin. “UK Heatwave: Why Is It so Hot?” BBC News, 19 July 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-62207466. Accessed 30 July 2022.

Williams, Nia, and Ismail Shakil. “Canada Lays out C$9.1 Bln Roadmap to Meet 2030 Climate Targets.” Reuters, 29 Mar. 2022, https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/canadas-releases-emissions-reduction-plan-mapping-out-path-2030-climate-targets-2022-03-29/. Accessed 30 July 2022.

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