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Answered By: Michael Pujals
Last Updated: Jul 17, 2014     Views: 70

Evaluating Internet Resources
 

 

The Internet is not regulated for quality or accuracy; therefore, it is particularly important for the individual Internet user to be very critical and to evaluate the Web resource very carefully. Keep in mind that almost anyone can publish anything they wish on the Web. It is often difficult to determine authorship of Web sources, and even if the author is listed, he or she may not always represent him or herself honestly, or he or she may represent opinions as fact. The responsibility is on the user to evaluate resources effectively. 

 

Are you sure the Web is where you want to be? It may take an hour to find the answer to a question on the Web that would take a Reference Librarian two minutes to find. When in doubt, ask a Librarian!

The questions below will help you to evaluate web pages for use as academic sources. Be sure and look at the criteria in multiple categories prior to making a decision regarding the academic quality of a source.

How did you find the page?
How you located the site can give you a start on your evaluation of the site's validity as an academic resource.

  • Was it found via a search conducted through a search engine? Unlike library databases, the accuracy and/or quality of information located via a search engine will vary greatly. Look carefully!
  • Was it recommended by a faculty member or another reliable source? Generally, an indicator of reliability.
  • Was it cited in a scholarly or credible source? Generally, an indicator of reliability.
  • Was it a link from a reputable site? Generally, an indicator of reliability.

What is the site's domain?
Think of this as "decoding" the URL, or Internet address. The origination of the site can provide indications of the site's mission or purpose. The most common domains are:

  •  .org : an advocacy web site, such as a not-for-profit organization.
  • .com : a business or commercial site.
  • .net : a site from a network organization or an Internet service provider.;
  • .edu : a site affiliated with a higher education institution.
  • .gov : a federal government site.
  • .ca.us : a state government site, this may also include public schools and community colleges.
  • .uk (United Kingdom) : a site originating in another country (as indicated by the 2 letter code).
  • ~ : a tilde usually indicates a personal page.

Authority
On the Internet anyone can pose as an authority. Look for information on the author of the site, usually on the “About” page. Is the author's name visible?

  • Does the author list his or her credentials? Are they relevant to the information presented? 
  • Is there a mailing address or telephone number included, as well as an e-mail address?
  • Does the author have an affiliation with an organization or institution?

Note: To find relevant information about the author, check personal homepages on the Web, campus directory entries and information retrieved through search engines. Also, check print sources in the Library Reference area; Who's Who in America, Biography Index, and other biographical sources can be used to determine the author's credentials.

 

Purpose
Knowing the motive behind the page’s creation can help you judge its content. The Internet can be used by anyone as a sounding board for their thoughts and opinions.

  • Who is the intended audience? Is it aimed at scholarly, expert, or general public?
  • Is the intention to inform or teach?
  • Is the intention to persuade or sell?

Accuracy and Credibility
There are no standards or controls on the accuracy of information available via the Internet. 
Can you verify any of the information in independent sources or from your own knowledge?

  • Does the information appear to be valid, well researched and supported by evidence?
  • Are the sources for factual information, statistics, and quotes clearly listed so that the information can be verified? Is there a bibliography?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Is it clear who has the ultimate responsibility for the accuracy of the content of the material?
  • Is the information free of grammatical, spelling, or typographical errors?

Objectivity
The Internet can be used by anyone as a sounding board for their thoughts and opinions.

  • Does the page exhibit a particular point of view or bias?
  • Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda?
  • Is the site objective?
  • Is there a reason the site is presenting a particular point of view on a topic? 
  • Does the page contain advertising? This may impact the content of the information included. Look carefully to see if there is a relationship between the advertising and the content, or whether the advertising is simply providing financial support for the page.  

Is the page current?
This is both an indicator of the timeliness of the information and whether or not the page is actively maintained.

  • Is the information provided current?
  • When was the page created?
  • Are dates included for the last update or modification of the page?
  • Are the links current and functional?

Does the page function well?
The ease of use of a site and its ability to help you locate information you are looking for are examples of the site's functionality.

  • Is the site easy to navigate? Are options to return to the home page, tops of pages, etc., provided?
  • Is the site searchable?
  • Are links current, or have they become dead ends? What kinds of sources are linked?
  • Does the site include a site map or index?

Compiled from: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  http://www.library.illinois.edu/ugl/howdoi/webeval.html and
Georgetown University Library  http://www.library.georgetown.edu/tutorials/research-guides/evaluating-internet-content

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