When searching for information on the "free web," you need to be critical. Here are a few reasons:
The URL for a website can tell you a lot about the purpose of a webpage.
.com = commercial site
.net =network provider
.edu =education - school or university
.mil = military website
.gov = government website
.com, .net, and .org sites are less regulated, meaning anyone can register for a website with that domain. .edu, .mil, and .gov sites are MORE REGULATED, and tend to be more reliable.
When evaluating websites or any other information sources, use the following CRAAP test to help evaluate the information you find. This checklist applies to any resource you may use for a school assignment, but keep in mind that some items are specific to websites. Download a CRAAP test worksheet.
Currency: The timeliness of the information.
Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.
Authority: The source of the information.
Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.
Purpose: The reason the information exists.
Wikipedia is a free, online encyclopedia that contains articles about nearly any topic. It may be tempting to use it as a resource for an assignment, but keep in mind that most instructors WILL NOT accept Wikipedia as an acceptable source. Why? Wikipedia entries can be edited by anyone that has access to a computer and creates a Wikipedia account. This often compromises the quality of information that may appear in Wikipedia entries. The last thing you want to do is to use false information in your assignments.
So what do you do? Use Wikipedia as a starting point for your research, but, if you want to use information from it, try to verify it in another reputable source instead.