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Bowen Library

Evaluating Web Sites

In addition to information on this page, a tutorial on evaluating web sites is available at Internet Detective.

Evaluating web sources is similar to evaluating any other source. However, evaluation is more critical in the web environment since anyone can publish anything. It is therefore your job to sift out the good stuff from the junk.

Accuracy

  • Is the information accurate and reliable?
  • Are there any glaring mistakes or discrepancies?

Authority

  • Who is the author?
  • Can you trust the author?
  • Look at the web site's address for clues
    • Sites that end with .gov, are often government sites: Whitehouse.gov will get you the site for the President of the United States; other Whitehouse.* will get you sites completely unrelated to the Office of the President
    • The tilde symbol, ~, usually means that the site that you are on is a personal page of a main page. Thus, the information is from an individual. A site that an individual puts up can be good—check to see who they are. If a specialist in a field puts up a website devoted to his or her area, the site is probably good.

Objectivity

  • Objectivity can only be determined once you know the author. Once the author is known, you can ask yourself, "What stake does this author have in this information?"
  • For example, if you go to a company's web site, the company will say only positive things about itself. It is unlikely that you will find out about the dangers of a car by going to the car company's website. (If the information is there, it is often there because of a lawsuit or government action.)

Currency

  • How recent is the information? Does the page have a date when it was updated?
  • Is newer information available elsewhere? (The web isn't always the source of the newest information.)
  • Does currency matter for your subject?

Coverage

  • How much of the subject does the website cover? Is it a cursory summary, or does it provide in depth coverage?
  • Do other sources cover the material better?