LEARNING SERVICES

Evaluating Websites
 


The World Wide Web has a wealth of information available and not all of it is necessarily valuable, useful, or appropriate. Print resources in University libraries, such as books and journals, are critically evaluated and purchased from reputable suppliers. Online resources accessible via the Library databases are normally selected and evaluated by the providers. Information on the Web is unfiltered and there is often not a clear distinction between advertising and informational content in Web pages. This may result in bias. It is up to the individual to critique information found on the Web. The following guidelines and checklist provide a starting point for you to evaluate Web sites and other Internet information.

Authority

  • Who is the author or creator? Click here for tips on how to check who owns the website.
  • What are the author's qualifications or credentials for writing on the subject?
  • What is his/her occupation?
  • Is the source sponsored or endorsed by an organisation and what authority does the organisation have on the subject?
Accuracy
  • How reliable is the information?
  • Can the information be verified against other sources? Is it consistent with what else you know about the subject?
  • Is the information complete?
  • Does it provide enough evidence to support its claim or position?
  • How free from error is the information?
  • Were conclusions appropriate, based upon the information presented?
Objectivity
  • One way to check the objectivity of a site is to find out what other sites link to it. Click here for tips on how to perform a 'link-back' search in Google. The 'link-back' search will find additional information about Web sites that share the site with others via their own site. If you notice a number of "biased" websites that are linked to the site, then you may want to question whether this site is good for your research.
  • Is the information presented biased?
  • What is the purpose or point of view of the publication? Is it trying to convince you of a point of view?
  • Is the publication sponsored or endorsed by a political or other special interest group?
Currency
  • Is the content of the work up-to-date?
  • Is the ‘publication’ date clearly indicated?
  • If a date is included, what does it indicate? The date the material was first written? The date the information was placed on the Web? The date the Web site was last revised?
  • If material is presented in graphs or charts is it clearly stated when that information was gathered?
Audience
  • Who is the intended audience? the general public? professionals? practioners? scholars?
  • At what level is the information pitched e.g. subject experts or students? Consider the vocabulary used
  • Does it include a bibliography or links to additional sources to consult?


REFERENCES

1. Tate M, Alexander J. Teaching critical evaluation skills for World Wide Web Resources.  Computers in Libraries. 1996 (Nov/Dec) : 49-55.  
2. Evaluating Sources from Purdue University (Login as a Guest User, then click Evaluating Sources)


Check who owns the Web site by using the domain tool and find the additional information about the creator or the organization

  • The Whois Source domain tool will display the information about the creator and the owner of the site, their contact details, and the links to other Web pages that the site connects to:

Check who links to the Web site by doing a "link-back" search using Google and find additional information about Web sites that share the site with others via their own

  • In the Google Search box enter: link: URL of the Web site and click on Google Search button. E.g.:

  • This will identify who links to the website:

  • If you notice a number of "biased" websites that are linked to the site, then you may want to question whether this site is good for your research.

Recommended by:

Shonda Brisco, MLIS, Fort Worth Country Day School, TX, US, sbrisco@fwcds.org


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