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Nursing Undergraduate Student Library Research Guide: Evaluating author information

Information to support undergraduate students as they become proficient users of library resources and services

Evaluating websites in action

  A student uses several methods to evaluate a website and, in less than four minutes, he makes a revealing discovery!

Additional guides to evaluating websites

In addition to the sources listed at the bottom of the box on Evaluating Websites, here are a few more guides to consult:

“Critically Analyzing Information Sources,” from the Olin Library librarians of Cornell University.  2013.  http://guides.library.cornell.edu/criticallyanalyzing

“Evaluating Information Found on the Internet,” from Johns Hopkins Sheridan Libraries.  2013.  http://guides.library.jhu.edu/content.php?pid=198142&sid=1665954

“How to Evaluate Resources Using the CRAAP Test,” from the librarians of the Musselman Library at Gettysburg College.  2012.  http://www.gettysburg.edu/library/research/tips/webeval/index.dot

Evaluation questions to ask

The World Wide Web can be a great place for information on many topics.  However, it is important to remember that anyone can put information on the Web—it is unregulated, unmonitored, unchecked, unedited, and of widely differing reliability.  Take for example, Wikipedia, known on the Internet as "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit."  The site's general disclaimer states that the site has no formal peer review and therefore the validity of the information found on Wikipedia cannot be guaranteed.  Like this and many other websites on the Internet, it is important that YOU establish the validity, authorship, timeliness and integrity of the information you find.

 Techniques for Website  Evaluation:

1)      Read the URL carefully

      A) Is the website a personal page?  Look for a personal name following a tilde ( ~ ), a percent sign (%) or the words “users,” “members,” or “people.”  You can also look to see if it is coming from a commercial ISP or other provider of web page hosting (e.g., aol.com).

      B) What type of domain does the website come from?  Is the domain appropriate for the content?

·         Education sites:  .edu

·         Government sites: .gov, .mil

·         Nonprofit organizations: .org

·         School sites:  .k12, .sch

·         Academic institutions outside of U.S.:  .ac

     C) Who published the page?  Generally, the publisher is the agency or person operating the “server” computer from which the document is issued.  The server is usually in the first portion of the URL between the http:// and the first /

 2)      Review the webpage to determine authority, accuracy, purpose, and currency.

            A)    Authority and accuracy

            Is an author identified?  What are the author’s credentials on this subject?  Is the background or education of the author appropriate for someone who is qualified to write on the topic?  Is the page created by an enthusiast or self-proclaimed expert?  Authority can also come from the publisher.  Is the publisher credible and, like the author, qualified to comment on the subject?

            Documentation of sources can substitute as a gauge of authority and accuracy. Do the sources have footnotes?  Do they lead to reliable or scholarly sources?  Are there connections to related links or links to additional sites that are appropriate and reliable sources? If reproduced information is from another source, is it complete?

            B)    Purpose and content

            Scan the perimeter of the page to discover who is responsible for the content of the page.  Look for links such as “About Us,”  “Mission,”  “Purpose,”  “Background,” “Biography,” etc.  If you cannot find such links, you can often find the information by backing up or truncating back the URL.  Has the website been developed to provide research and  scholarly information?  To provide educational or factual information?  To entertain?  To advertise, market or sell something?  To advocate ideas?  To persuade you?  Does the purpose suggest bias or will the content reflect all points of view on the subject?  Was the content designed for the web or are the pages originally in another format?

           C)    Currency

            When was the page updated last?  How recent the date needs to be depends on your research needs.  Are there any dead links?

          D)    Relevance to your research

            Is the source appropriate within the context and purpose of your research?

 


Sources

 UC Berkeley Library.-“Teaching Library Internet Workshops: Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask.”    2012.  http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/Evaluate.html  2014 July 7.

 Nathanson, Jill and Mei Ling Lo.  "Evaluating Internet sources.”  2014 May 7.  http://libguides.rutgers.edu/content.php?pid=405149&sid=3316077  2014 July 7.

 University of Maryland Libraries.  “Evaluating Web Sites.”  2014 February 7.  http://www.lib.umd.edu/tl/guides/evaluating-web 2014 July 7.

 

Life Sciences Librarian

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Ann Vreeland Watkins
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