Why does the web site exist?
- To inform?
- To persuade?
- To sell?
- To fulfill a student's course assignment?
A web site might appear perfect, yet be a carefully disguised advertisement for a profit-making venture or an organization with a bias.
Who created the web site?
- How qualified is the author?
- Where did the writer get his/her "facts"? Can the information be verified?
- Is the web site published by a recognized source such as a government agency, professional organization, or university department?
Even with credentials, we can't be sure a web site is accurate!
How up-to-date is the information on the web site?
- Look at the top or bottom of the screen for a date.
- Is this the date the information was written, posted on the web, or revised?
- Is the web site too old to be useful?
- Dates on some web sites automatically update whenever you look at them. Therefore, it might not be obvious that the information on the web site is too old to be useful.
The Internet does not have employees who remove out-of-date web sites.
How accurate, balanced, and in-depth is the web site?
- How does it compare to other sources?
- What is its point-of-view?
- Does it provide a balance of opinions?
- Is it neither too difficult nor too easy for your level of learning?
- Is it free of spelling, grammatical, and other typographical errors?
Sometimes, human or technical error can corrupt a web site. Inaccuracies are not always easy to detect.
Were you referred to the web site by a reliable source?
- Your professor?
- Your textbook?
- Were you linked from a reliable website?
Generally, search engines such as Ask.com, Bing, Google, and Yahoo don't evaluate quality.
- Your instructors, textbooks, university departments, and respected organizations often provide links you can trust. They have worthy objectives and reputations to protect.
- Find one or more additional sources. If the web site greatly differs from other sources, keep searching.
- To research thoroughly, use a variety of web and non-web sources.
- Be skeptical!
- A good web site for more information: Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask (UC Berkley Library).
- If you have doubts, consult your professor or a librarian.