The internet is the ultimate source of information. Whether you're looking to learn about rotary airlocks or sulfur loving bacteria, there's someone somewhere who has posted a website, blog post, or article on it. The problem is that there are no information police patrolling the internet and checking its content for accuracy. Posters can just as easily fabricate everything they put on their website as write it truthfully. It can sometimes be hard to tell if it's true or not, and you need to know if you're writing a factual article or paper. So how can you know if the content is reliable? Use our guidelines.
After the Dot
The most basic method of determining whether a website is likely to contain factual information or not is to look at what comes after the dot in the web address. Websites that feature informational content on a non-profit rather than commercial basis will usually have .org, .edu, or .gov on the end. Anyone can buy the name farm fencing with a .org address, but to get .edu or .gov you would have to prove that you're a school or government agency. Likewise anyone can buy .com and .net addresses, and .com usually indicated a business. .info is a misnomer, as most of them tend to be junk pages.
When you're reading an article, if it's a legitimately researched article it should have citations. Citations are little numbers within the text that correspond to footnotes at the bottom of the page where the author tells you where he or she got the information on gold bullion they have just used. If citations are done right, you should be able to find the source they indicate and check the facts in it yourself, either through a link or by looking the book up. Books are always more trustworthy than websites, as they are edited.
If you're lucky, you'll find a website that does all your fact checking for you. These sites usually belong to peer reviewed journals. Publication in these journals is only open to professionals. The journal's publishers then submit these articles to other professionals to check for accuracy before it even gets printed in trade mark Canadian journals. You can read these through the journal's site or through databases like JSTOR.
When something is in the library, whether it's a public one or a school one, you can treat it as trustworthy. Books have to go through a rigorous editing process before they are published anyway, and librarians consider each book very carefully before adding it to their window weight subject collection. If a book has a number designation on it (243.12 GEH for instance) that means the book is part of the library's non-fiction collection.