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.
To evaluate websites ask yourself these questions:
- Why should you TRUST this source?
- Is this source PROMOTING a belief/cause?
- Has it been UPDATED recently?
- Has the material been covered ADEQUATELY?
- Is this source APPROPRIATE within the context and purpose of my research?
Techniques for Web Evaluation:
Read the URL carefully
- Is it a personal page?
- Look for a personal name following a tilde ( ~ ), a percent sign (%) or the words “users,” “members,” or “people”.
- Look to see if it is coming from a commercial ISP or other provider of web page hosting (e.g., aol.com)
What type of domain does it 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
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 /
Scan the perimeter of the page
- 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.
Is the page current?
- How recent the date needs to be depends on your needs
- When was the last time the page or site was "last updated"
- Are there any "dead links"?
What are the author’s credentials on this subject?
- Does the background or education of the author look like someone who is qualified to write on the topic?
- Is the page created by an enthusiast or self-proclaimed expert?
- Look at the documentation of sources if you cannot find relevant credentials.
Look for indicators of quality information
- Are sources documented with footnotes or links?
- If reproduced information is from another source, is it complete?
- Are there links to appropriate, reliable sources?
Distinguish Web pages from pages found on the Web
- Was the page designed for the Web, or was it originally something else?
Some information adapted from UC Berkeley Library-Teaching Library Internet Workshops: Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask