The World Wide Web has a lot to offer, but not all sources are equally valuable or reliable!
Consider the following when evaluating a website:
Criterion #1: Purpose
Consider the main purpose of the page. Web pages are not always easy to categorize and some may combine some of these categories.
Extensions(domains) on addresses can sometimes indicating reliability:
a .edu extension indicates a college or university
a .org extension indicates an organization
a .com indicates a commercial enterprise
These extensions are used in the U. S. only. Foreign sites, and some in the U.S., use a geographical extension or domain. These "extension" rules should only be applied in a general way. Some commercial sites contain high quality information but many are advertising a product or service and, therefore, are not objective sources. A person who works for the commercial enterprise may be reliable, although a person who is merely "renting" space on their web server may not be. Government sites usually have reliable information but remember that government also deals in propaganda and partisan views. Academic sites will most likely contain quality information suitable for research, but you must still check the author's background. An organization may be a legal entity that has an interest in providing reliable information. However, the information found on an organization's homepage may also be highly biased and one-sided.
Criterion #2: Authority
An author's affiliation is an important clue to the reliability of the information:
Look for any biographical statement about the author.
Look for an e-mail address or site address to determine affiliation.
Questions to ask about the author:
- Is the author even listed?
- Is the author the original creator of the information?
- Did the author list his/her occupation, educational background, expertise?
- Do you think this person is qualified to present this information?
- Did the author cite his/her sources?
- Can you verify the author's credentials from another source?
- Has the author also published in professional or scholarly journals?
Criterion #3: Accuracy
Don't take the information presented at face value. Web sites are rarely refereed or reviewed, as are scholarly journals and books:
Are the sources for any factual information clearly listed so they can be verified in another source? (If not, the page may still be useful to you as an example of the ideas of the organization, but it is not useful as a source of factual information).
Is the information free of grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors? (These kinds of errors not only indicate a lack of quality control, but can actually produce inaccuracies in information.)
Criterion #4: Objectivity
Are the sponsor's biases clearly stated?
If there is any advertising on the page, is it clearly differentiated from the informational content?
Criterion #5: Currency
Are there any indications that the material is kept current?
Is there an indication that the page has been completed, and is not still under construction?
Are there dates on the page to indicate:
- When the page was written?
- When the page was first placed on the Web?
- When the page was last revised?
Don’t see any date information on the page?
- In Netscape pull down “View” from the menu bar and select “Page information”
- In Internet Explorer pull down “File” from the menu bar and select “Properties”
- In Mozilla Firefox pull down “Tools” from the menu bar and select “Page Info”
Criterion #6: Coverage
Is it clear what topics the page intends to address?
Does the page succeed in addressing these topics, or has something significant been left out?
Is the point of view of the sponsor/author presented in a clear manner with its arguments well supported?
Are the links on the page relevant to the subject?
Does the content cover a specific time period or aspect of the topic, or strives to be comprehensive?
Criterion #7: Style and Functionality
Is the site laid out clearly and logically with well organized subsections?
Is the writing style appropriate for the intended audience?
Is the site easy to navigate?
Is a search function offered?
Is the homepage easy to navigate?
Is the homepage logically organized?
Is the writing clear?
Are there numerous spelling or grammatical errors?
Are there errors in the use of HTML tags?
Do the links work?