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Evaluating Websites

Since anyone can publish anything on the Internet, it is even more important for you to pay special attention to evaluating these resources.  The following questions can help you evaluate the quality of websites.  First, a few preliminary questions:


Is the Internet the best source for this information?

  • Did you know that there is a difference between Web sites and Web-delivered content.
  • Be sure to know where your information is coming from!

While the Internet may be a convenient source of information, sometimes it is easier and quicker to find the information you need in a book or journal.  Unlike the Internet, at least a book or article has gone through an editing process.  Before you hurry off to search the Web, consider whether or not a Web site would indeed be the best place to find quality information about your topic.


What's the difference between a Web site and an electronic database from the library?

Web pages can be written by anyone on any topic.  You can find some great information, but it may not always come from a reliable, trustworthy source.  Most of the sources (journals, magazines, newspapers, etc) found in the library's electronic databases have print counterparts.  These sources have gone through an editorial review process to ensure accuracy and credibility, so there's less chance of getting incorrect or misleading information.


Criteria for evaluating Web sites:

Authority
  • Who wrote the Web site?
  • What are the author's credentials?
  • Who is the sponsor or what is the author's affiliations?
  • Is there contact information for the author?
Purpose/Audience
  • Why was the page created?
  • What is the purpose?  Sell, inform, persuade?
  • Who is the audience?  Children, researchers, general audience?
Currency
  • Is the information up-to-date? Out-of-date?  Not dated?
Objectivity or Bias

Bias isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is something you should be aware of and notice.

  • Does the author have a conflict of interest?
  • Are facts left out?
  • Are all sides of the issue presented?