Evaluating Internet Resources
1. Why Should You Evaluate Web Pages?
- Anyone with Internet access can put up a Web page.
- The accuracy or authority of the author might be questionable.
- There is no editorial board to approve articles on the Internet.
- There is a lot of “commercial” publishing and sponsoring of Web pages.
- Someone can put up a page and never update it or remove it.
- Some pages are satire or present a sense of humour not appreciated by everyone.
Strategies to Avoid Bad Information
In addition to the information below here is a Web Evaluation Criteria Checklist.
2. Know Your Subject Matter
Take a look at this page about Dihydrogen Monoxide. It looks pretty “official”. However, do you know what Dihydrogen Monoxide is? This is one example to illustrate why you have to know what you are dealing with. Before you decide if a website is factual, do a little fact checking on your own. Always get a second opinion.
Identify the Type of Page You Have Found
It is useful to identify the type of page that you have found because you would apply different criteria to each type of page. For example, a commercial page may contain very good information, but knowing that the goal of the page is to sell you a product should make you aware that the information may be biased.
Types of webpages include: commercial, personal, academic, advocacy, association or professional.
Identify the Origin of the Page
URL’s are often a good indication of the origin of the page. The domain name is found after http:// and www. Check the URL to see if the domain name extension includes .com .biz .name .pro .info (commercial), .gov (governmental), .org (any organization ), .net (network), .edu (educational), a two letter code (country of origin) or % (can mean it is a personal website).
Identify the Author/Sponsor of the Page
It is often difficult to identify the author of a website, but it is important as it tells you about the quality of the information you will find on the site. What is the person’s or association’s authority to post on this subject? Is there a contact address or number (are they willing to answer questions, take feedback or are they hiding)? If the author is a person, can you find a little bit about their background on the website or elsewhere?
Identify the Currency of the Website
Is there a date given on the website? Does this indicate when the site was first placed online (could indicate the information is dated) or when it was last updated (indicates the information is maintained)? No dates or an old date could indicate that the site is abandoned and the information stale.
When you are conducting research, use the Appropriate Search Tools and Resources
Make sure that the WEB is where you should be looking. Ask yourself:
- Should you be using a specific part of the web?
- Google Scholar for scholarly journals rather than Google.com?
- The Heart and Lung Association’s website rather than Ask.com?
- Google News rather than Google.com?
- Would a printed resource work better?
- Is time an issue? Would the material you are seeking be more quickly found in a journal?
- Would using digital resource collections give you more free access to quality materials?
- Start your research with one of the Library’s Subject Guides.
Check to see if someone else has already “debunked” the information by consulting some of the sites below (Always be cynical and expect bias – check for a second source even with these sites).