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Evaluating Websites: Evaluating Websites

Evaluating Websites- A Checklist

Authorship

Note: an author can be a person or an organization
 

  
  • Who is the author of the website?
  • What are the author's credentials? Is the author an authority on the subject? Is it another student? A professor? Your next door neighbor?
  • Is the author an organization? What do you know (or what can you find out) about this organization? What is its purpose?
   

Accuracy

Information must not only be accurate but verifiable in your research.

  • Is the site edited well? Are there spelling or grammatical errors? Is it written in a style that you would expect for the topic and audience?
  • Don't accept the information at face value - you'll need to take time to consult other sources (including non-web sources) to verify the accuracy of the information
  • Does the information on the site "fit" with other information that you have on the topic? Or are there discrepancies with other sources of information?
  • Does the author provide a way to verify information on this site? Are footnotes, citations, or sources provided?      
   
   

Currency

Look at the date of publication, as well as any dates of cited information.

   
  • Is the page or website being updated and maintained?
  • When was the page written? Last updated or revised?
  • How current is the information? Does this fit your needs? Note that website content written in May 2008 might contain information from 1975.
  • Be aware that "Last updated" may mean any update on the page, including stylistic changes such as different colors or layout - not necessarily changes to content.    

 

Content      

Does the content meet your needs or assignment requirements?

   
  • How detailed is the information - is it basic or advanced?
  • Is the coverage of the topic complete? Does it leave out important information? Does it offer more than one perspective? or is it biased?
  • Is the web page part of a longer document? Sometimes you will need to look at more than one page to get the complete picture.
  • Is there a bibliography or links to other information on the topic? How were the links selected? Are the other sources mentioned relevant and credible?
  • How does the content compare with other resources (books, journal articles, other web pages) on the same topic?       

 

Purpose

Look closely at the site. Sometimes it is difficult to tell if it is opinion or fact.

  • Does this site present fact or opinion?
  • What is the purpose of the site? To inform? To sell? To persuade?
  • Is the site objective, showing multiple sides of an issue? Bias is not necessarily a reason to reject a source - but be sure that you can identify it.
  • Who is the intended audience? Advanced researchers in a field? Elementary school students? Members of a particular organization or viewpoint?
  • If there is advertising on the page, does this affect the content?

Design

Look closely at visuals and graphics. Sometimes they can affect the website's credibility.

  • What kind of information - textual, visual, aural - does the page present, and does this add or detract from the page's usefulness or legibility?
  • Do image or other media files slow down load time or navigation through the website?
  • Do the different design components work, or are images, sound files, etc. unable to display, play, or run?
  • Does the web page require specific add-on software in order to read, see, print, or listen to resources linked on the page? Is that add-on software readily available or must it be purchased?

Types of Websites

Looking at the web address is one way to tell what the website is about. It might give you an idea of why the site was produced.

 

Advocacy- These types of websites try to sway your opinion. Their web addresses frequently end in .org (organization)

Marketing/Business- These website are primarily trying to sell something.  Their addresses end in .com (commercial)

  •  e.g. Apple (www.apple.com)
  •  or Pepsi (www.pepsico.com)

Informational/Educational- These websites present factual information.  Educational or government institutions sponsor these sites.  Their addresses end in .edu or .gov (education or government).

News - These sites present extremely current information. Their web address often ends with .com (commercial).

Personal - These pages are created and published by an individual who may or may not be affiliated with a larger institution or organization. Their web address may have a variety of endings (.com, .edu, etc.), and will frequently contain a tilde (~).

Search Tip:  It is still important to evaluate sites ending in .org and .edu, just because they are not .com (commercial) sites, doesn't mean they might not be published by an individual, as you can see from the example above.  Be critical about what you are reading.

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