Some of the ideas for this page were taken from the book Web Wisdom: How to Evaluate and Create Information Quality on the Web by Janet Alexander and Marsha Ann Tate (Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum Associates, 1999). The book is available at Shain Library and is located on the third floor with the call number TK 5105.888 A376 1999.
Evaluating Web Resources
Following are some points to consider when looking at web sources to determine their value:
- Is the author's name given? Are credentials presented?
- Is this person well regarded in the field you are studying or known to be an authority?
- Were you referred to this site from another that you trust?
- Is there contact information provided?
- Is the author associated with a reputable organization or institution?
- When was the source published? Is there a date included on the page?
- Is the information current for your topic? Many disciplines, particularly the sciences, require up to date information while others, such as topics in the humanities, may require historical information.
- Is there a revision date included or is this the first edition of the publication?
3. COVERAGE AND INTENDED AUDIENCE
- Is it relevant to your topic
- Who is the page intended for, is it targeted to specialists in a given field or a high school class?
- What is the intent of the information: to sell a product, to disseminate information, to persuade you to a certain viewpoint?
- Is the material primary or secondary in nature?
- Is a bibliography included?
- Identify the key players involved in creating the site and providing the informtion. Is it an advertisement, is it an advocacy group?
- Is the language used free from bias?
- Are the ideas presented generally in line with other information you have read or seen pertaining to this subject? The greater the deviation, the more you should scrutinze the information.
- Does the information appear to be valid, are the facts put forth supported by evidence?
- To illustrate how two organization with divergent viewpoints can treat one issue, check the web sites for the The National Right to Life Committee and the National Abortion and Reproduction Rights Action League.
- Is the site laid out clearly?
- Is the site easy to navigate, are there navigation buttons that are logical and allow you to move easily through the page?
- Do all the links work?
- Is special software required to access information on the page?
Other things to think about when evaluating web resources:
- Domain Name: A good deal of information about a site can be discerned from its domain name. An address ending in .COM is a commercial site. A .EDU site could be an official college site, but it could also be the homepage of a student. .GOV represents publications of the United States government. When looking at a .ORG site, make sure to check for bias or viewpoints inherent to the organization.
- Stability: The web by nature is a fluid medium, sites are subject to change and may disappear seemingly overnight. When using the web for research, it is important to write down web addresses and print out copies of important pages as a permanant record.
- Search Engine Retrieval: Using a web search engine, like Google or Yahoo, may retrieve pages out of sequence or context. In order to determine the source of the information, you may need to return to the home page
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