There is a lot of debate about whether or not wikipedia is accurate. Many claim that while it is edited almost instantaneously, there is no way of knowing that at the moment you log on to that specific page that the content is accurate. Since anyone can change the content, you need to be wary. On the other hand, when I need to look something up for myself that is usually the first place I go.
I would have to say the posters above have given great information. In my research I try to use place like Ebsco to start my searches. Google also has a way to search for peer reviewed articles. I also like the idea of using '.edu" sights
I see a number of wise comments with regard to the validity, peer review of work, agenda of site sponsors, and etc. All of these are important factors. One comment that I would add, and I apologize if it has already been said, is does the web site offer contact information. If you have a question about the content are there avenues in place that allow you to ask questions and check for veracity. If you look at the bottom of the eNotes page, you will find several links that will allow you to do this.
This is a very topical question, and the responses are right on-target. I would add these thoughts. When directing my students in their online research, I frequently steer them toward college and university sites. (Look for the ".edu," I advise them.) Since these sites represent their own educational institutions, factual accuracy is of vital concern and bias is not a factor. As for the eNotes site, consider the site's purpose: to assist students and teachers in research. There is no bias or hidden agenda. Also, eNotes editors must possess professional credentials and apply for the opportunity to work on the site by demonstrating their knowledge and expertise. (Editors at eNotes have to take a test before being accepted on the site.) Answers posted on the site are reviewed by supervising editors, as well; an inaccurate answer would be corrected or removed.
One aspect of credibility that must always be taken into account when doing Internet research is the what the sponsor of the site has to gain. When assessing a site such as enotes, this is not an issue, because you will get many points of view on a subject and so the overall picture is more balancced. But if you are doing research on subjects for which there is a likelihood of bias by sponsors, this is a central question. This morning, I was doing research for a world cultures class I teach, looking for some handouts on the history of a particular country. What I noticed first was that the site was sponsored by the embassy of that country, in other words, government-sponsored. What I noticed next was that the history presented did not square with my understanding of that country's history, and it was presented in a way most favorable to that country's present political regime. So, this was not a handout I wanted for my students. Credibility was lacking because the current political regime had a stake in rewriting the country's history. This is something to watch out for when doing research on history, politics, or any "hot-button" issue of the day. Many people do not understand this aspect of assessing credibility.
I think the reason this site is trustworthy is because of the way it is set up. There are many editors and we get paid when we answer questions. Whenever I see a topic I know about, I look at any answers that have been posted. If I see a mistake, you can be sure I would post a second answer correcting it and I'm sure other editors would do the same to my posts. So I think that the large number of editors on this site is a good reason to trust it.
First of all, if we're talking about credibility it's always better if a site is maintained by a number of editors and contributors. Generally, taking information from a site such as eNotes or Wikipedia is better than taking information from someone's blog.
Also, it's important that a site display when the information was last updated. This displays both a devotion to having current, relevant material and adds to the credibility of a site. Hence the MLA mandates such a date in citations.
Also, it's good to assume that the larger the organization publishing the site or the more in depth the content (the number of pages) the better.
There is also the matter of citations/ references/ bibliography on the site itself. The more of these, the better certainly.
Finally, implore students to use common sense. If they are in doubt, generally the site isn't a credible resource.