Unfortunately, the answer to this question is 'it depends' - on the website, and on your assignment. There is lots of fantastic and reliable information available for free on the internet, but there is also a lot of rubbish. You should be evaluating all of the information you use in your assignments, but this is particularly important for websites.
This page will give you some resources to help you get started with searching and evaluating websites. If you need any further guidance, please contact your Subject Librarian.
If you are looking for information through Google, there are many advanced search techniques which can help you get to the information you need more quickly. They can also help you to find more reliable information. Click the links below for a full list of search tips, or the tabs above for some of the most useful commands.
You can ask Google to search individual websites or groups of websites sharing a domain. To do this, type site: followed by the web address or domain without any spaces. For example:
You can combine this with file type searching. For example, if you search for site:gov.uk filetype:pdf you may be able to find UK government reports.
Google can search for documents that are available online based on their file format. To do this, type filetype: followed by the file format with no spaces. For example:
Note that newer documents created in Microsoft Office often have an 'x' on the end (e.g. docx instead of doc). You will need to search for these separately.
You can combine this with domain searching. For example, if you search for filetype:ppt site:ac.uk you may be able to find lecture slides from other UK universities.
You should never use Wikipedia as a reference in academic assignments. Anyone can edit Wikipedia (you can try this yourself - most Wikipedia articles have an 'edit' link next to every section) and the articles are changing all the time, so there is no guarantee that the information is reliable.
However, if you are researching a new topic which you know nothing about, Wikipedia can often provide an easy-to-read summary of the subject. After this introduction, you should then use academic sources to go more in depth. You may also wish to check the references at the bottom of the Wikipedia article, but remember that you will need to evaluate these sources too.
When evaluating sources of information, there are lots of factors to consider. The CRAAP Test is a quick check to determine whether a resource is appropriate to use in your assignment.
The CRAAP Test was created by librarians at California State University. For more information, click here to view their written guide. Alternatively, contact your Subject Librarian.
Did you know that Google tracks your search history and changes the results it gives you based on what it thinks you want to see? Fortunately, Google is not the only search engine out there. So whether you're struggling to make Google give you what you want, or you have concerns about Google's respect for your privacy, you may wish to try out these alternatives: