Absolutely! In fact, librarians are relieved when students find government websites for projects and research. Why? Government websites, unlike a lot of what you might find on the web, are credible and trustworthy. How can you tell if a website is credible? Lots of ways! Let’s take a look at a few things you should consider:
1) Who wrote or compiled the information?
Is there an author listed or can you easily identify the organization that published the information? Or…is it anonymous? If you can’t find the author or the organization that published the material, it might be time to move on to another source.
2) Can you find information about the author(s) or the organization?
Are there credentials listed after the author’s name? Or can you easily find additional information about the agency or organization? Look for indications of authority such as a PhD, MD, MS, or other letters indicating that the author has evidence of completing a higher education or graduate degree. Also, look for affiliations with a university or government organization.
3) Can you independently verify the information presented?
Can you trace the information presented back to its original source? Where is the author or organization getting the information? If you can’t verify the information—you got it—it might be time to move on to another source.
4) Do they cite their sources?
This goes hand-in-hand with independently verifying the information presented. Does the source cite a particular study, but doesn’t give any other information about the study? Is there a reference list at the bottom or are references cited throughout the website?
5) How does it compare to other information you find?
Does the source talk about the topic in a new way that you’ve never encountered? Is it so out there that you can’t find other sources that talk about it in the same manner? Remember to think critically and take care when selecting your sources.
These steps give the researcher—you—even more reasons for finding and using government websites in your research. Want to get started using government information on the web? Click here to get started. Also, check out the links below for more information about evaluating websites and other information you find on the web.
And remember, don't hesitate to Ask-A-Librarian if you have questions!
Eckman, A.S. (2011, June 28). Type 2 diabetes – risk factors. Retrieved from