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SSI1-119 Water in the Western United States

Evaluating Online Resources

How do we know if a website is reliable? How can we tell if it is appropriate to use as a source for a research project? What kind of information does it provide?  Websites are useful for all kinds of information needs, and they have the advantage of being easily accessible and available. However, not all websites are created equally. When using websites for your research, you need to be able to determine whether a website will be useful to you, and whether you need to take into consideration any bias on the part of the site. We can use the tools like your critical reading checklist, or skills like lateral reading, to help us evaluate websites for bias, reliability, accuracy, and usefulness. 

What is lateral reading? What lateral reading techniques do you think might be useful to add to your critical reading skillset?


This week for class, you looked at several different websites: 

1) An older explanation from Power Engineering magazine: 

· 2)Two pieces from the same author at

3) A response to one of those pieces from the Washington Policy center:

Working in pairs, each of you will evaluate your assigned website(s) using your critical reading checklist and lateral reading skills. Consider particularly the following questions:


1) When was it published?  What is the source? Who is the author and what is their background? 

 2) Can you tell what author's goals are? Can you tell who is the intended audience?

3) What are some of the claims that the website is making? How would you use lateral reading to 


Critical Reading Checklist

As you engage with sources, consider the critical reading checklist that you generated in class, and how you might use it together with the skills of lateral reading to fully engage with and evaluate online sources. 

Lateral Reading Video

This video (3.5 minutes) from University of Louisville Libraries Citizen Literacy Project describes the practice of "lateral reading," a strategy used by professional fact-checkers to investigate the reliability of online sources.

Lateral Reading Explained

This handout has a helpful overview of lateral reading! 

Creative Commons License CC by NC 4.0

Citizen Literacy was created by Robert Detmering, Amber Willenborg, and Terri Holtze for University of Louisville Libraries and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.