Not all of the information to be found on the web is
accurate and not all websites, no matter how attractive, are
good. Thus evaluating a website becomes an important activity.
When evaluating a website, consider the following questions:
Who wrote the pages?
What does the author have to say about the
Does the author have the authority to present this
Does the author/publishing organization have
anything to gain by presenting this information?
When was the site created and updated?
Where does the site's information come from?
Is the information consistent with other published
material on the topic?
Why it the site useful or important?
Can the information be verified in book, periodical
or other sources?
Fact or Opinion?
In reading nonfiction, it is important to distinguish between fact
and opinion. One can easily draw wrong inferences and
conclusions if what is accepted as fact is in reality only one
person's opinion. To test whether or not a statement is a fact,
ask these questions:
Can it be proved or demonstrated to be true?
Can it be observed in practice or operation?
Can it be verified by witnesses, manuscripts, or documents?
This does not mean that opinions should be discounted. On the
contrary, sound opinions based upon logic, research and study,
and experience are very valuable. However, to be an alert
reader, one needs to know where fact ends and opinion begins.
A very useful table explaining criteria for website evaluation was created by Jim Kapoun, reference and instruction librarian at Southwest State University, and published in College and Research Libraries News, (July/August, 1998):522-523.
Five criteria for evaluating Web pages
1. Accuracy of Web Documents
Who wrote the page and can
you contact him or her?
What is the purpose of the document and why was it produced?
Is there any indication of quality control - an editorial board or editors?
Is this person qualified to write this document?
Make sure author provides e-mail or a contact
Know the distinction between author and Webmaster.
2. Authority of Web Documents
Who published the document
and is it separate from the "Webmaster?"
Check the domain of the document; what institution publishes this document?
What credentials are listed for the author(s)?
Where is the document published? Check URL domain.
3. Objectivity of Web Documents
What goals/objectives does
this page meet?
How detailed is the information?
What opinions (if any) are expressed by the author?
Determine if page is a mask for advertising; if so, information might be biased.
View any Web page as you would an infommercial
on television. Ask yourself why was this written and for whom?
4. Currency of Web Documents
When was it produced?
When was it updated?
How up-to-date are the links (if any)?
How many dead links are on the page?
Are the links current or updated regularly?
Is the information on the page outdated?
5. Coverage of the Web Documents
Are the links (if any) evaluated
and do they
complement the documents theme?
Is it all images or a balance of text and images?
Is the information presented cited correctly?
More General Criteria
Consider the intended audience of the page, based on its content, tone and style. Does this mesh with your needs?
What is the purpose of this page? Is there a hidden agenda?
Web search engines often amass vast results, from memos to scholarly documents. Many of the resulting items will be peripheral or useless for your research.
Author/producer is identifiable
Author/producer has expertise on the subject as indicated on a credentials page. You may need to trace back in the URL (Internet address) to view a page in a higher directory with background information
Sponsor/location of the site is appropriate to the material as shown in the URL
.edu for educational or research material
.gov for government resources
~NAME in URL may mean a personal home page with no official sanction
Mail-to link is offered for submission of questions or comments
Don't take the information presented at face value
Web sites are rarely refereed or reviewed, as are scholarly journals and books. Look for point of view and especially
for evidence of bias
Source of the information should be clearly stated, whether original or borrowed from elsewhere