Evaluating World Wide Websites
All of the world's information is not available on the Web; some folks think it is. What is available on the Web's over one billion pages can be valuable or absolutely useless in your research. Unlike books, periodicals and newspapers, the Web has no editors or fact-checkers. Anyone can put anything on the Web. It could look impressive yet be wrong, outdated or offensive. It' important to be careful and think about the following as you surf the Web.
Authority and Accuracy
- Who wrote the Web page you are looking at?
- Is the person named an author or a Webmaster?
- What are the author's credentials? Is s/he qualified to write on this topic?
- Does the document provide a way to contact the author (e-mail, phone number, address)?
- What is the purpose of the document? Why was it produced?
- What institution published the document? What is the domain (.edu, .gov, com, etc.)?
- What opinions (if any) are expressed by the author?
- Is the page a mask for advertising? Think of an infomercial you've seen on TV. Is this similar?
- Is the page objective? Are both sides of an issue addressed?
- How detailed is the information?
Currency and Coverage
- When was the page written? When was it placed on the Web? When was it revised?
- If the topic is timely, is the date recent? Are you looking at "stale" information?
- Are the links up-to-date? Are there "dead links?"
- Are sources credited?
- Is the site laid out clearly and logically with well-organized subsections?
- Is the writing style appropriate for the intended audience?
- Are there spelling or grammatical errors?
- Is the site easy to navigate?