Evaluating Web Resources

PURPOSE AND AUDIENCE

  • What is the specific purpose of the Web site?
  • To whom is it aimed?
  • Does the Web site meet your particular information needs?

SOURCE AND AUTHORITY

  • Is the author/producer of the Web site readily identifiable?
  • Is the author/producer a qualified expert?
    • Does the Web site include a page indicating his/her credentials?
    • Can you verify his or her credentials by using other sources of information?
    • Can the author/producer be contacted for further questions or comments?
    • Is there an E-mail link on the Web site?
  • Consider the URL:
    • What type of Web site is it?
      • .edu for educational or research material
      • .gov for government material
      • .org for materials from organizations
      • .com for commercial products and commercially sponsored Web sites
    • Is this type of Web site appropriate for the material being made available?
  • Do you have reason to believe that the information being presented is biased?
  • Are copyrights clearly stated, including the name of the Web site’s owner(s) and the current date?

CONTENT

  • Is the information presented accurate?
    • Unlike scholarly journals and books, Web sites are rarely reviewed by one or more of the author’s peers or any kind of editorial board.
    • Never assume the information presented is correct.
    • Always use critical thinking skills to judge the overall validity of the Web site.
  • Does the author have a particular point of view? Is there any evidence of bias?
  • Is the information presented fact or opinion?
    • Can it be proved to be true?
    • Can it be verified by documents?
  • Is the source for the information provided clearly stated, regardless of whether it is the author’s original work or borrowed from elsewhere?
  • How comprehensive is the Web site?
    • What is the depth of the information provided?
    • Does it cover a specific time period and/or a specific aspect of a topic?
    • Does it strive to be comprehensive in scope?

CURRENCY

  • When was the Web site created and first placed on the Web?
  • When was the Web site last updated?
  • Is there a “Last Updated” notice on the page?
  • Do the links to remote Web sites function?
  • Are those pages current (i.e., up-to-date) as well?

LEGIBILITY, STYLE, AND FUNCTIONALITY

  • Is the Web site designed in a clear and logical fashion?
  • Can you easily navigate the pages?
    • Are the navigational buttons clearly labeled (i.e., Back, Home, Go To Top)?
    • Are the navigational buttons visible on every page?
    • Do these buttons function?
    • Do other embedded links also work?
  • Are the subsections well organized and easy to follow?
  • Are there any typographical, grammatical, or spelling errors?
  • Is there a way to search the Web site for specific content? This is especially important for comprehensive or extensive Web sites.

SUMMING THINGS UP

Never, ever rely solely on a Web site to meet your particular information needs! The information presented may “appear” to be accurate and authoritative, but you can never be sure unless you have at least one other source with which to back it up.

Seek out additional print and electronic resources (books, journal articles, research papers, etc.) to verify and complement the information provided on the Web site.

SURFERS BEWARE!

Anyone can publish anything at all on the Web! So let the surfer beware!

As you do your research, remember:

  • Although an address of a personal Web site may have an “.edu,” “.gov,” or “.org” ending, these entities may not sanction all of the Web sites linked to their own Web pages.
  • Also, affiliation with these often, but not necessarily, reputable groups, companies, and institutions is no
    guarantee of the authoritativeness, relevance, or accuracy of any of the links from their pages.

BEWARE THE WEAKEST LINK!