Evaluating Websites

No person or group checks the information that is published
on the Internet for accuracy or authority
.
You are responsible for evaluating the authority and accuracy
of any information that you intend to use for research purposes.

You may also wish to sign up for the Evaluating Websites Workshop!


 To evaluate a website, consider the following:

 1. What are the clues to "good" information?

  • Date--is the date the information was written and/or last updated clearly marked?
  • Author-who is responsible for the information on the page? Does the page list professional credentials or experiences which qualify that person/organization as an expert on the topic?
  • Affiliations-is the author identified with any group or organization which might influence his viewpoint?
  • Contact Information-is there a way to contact the author (email, phone number, or postal address)?
  • Background-is the information presented verifiable in outside sources?

 2. Who is responsible for the information being presented?

  • Is it from an individual or an organization?
  • What are the goals of the author in presenting this information?
  • Are the qualifications that allow the author to speak authoritatively on the topic listed?
  • Are the background and expertise of the individual/organization given?
  • If you have questions about any of these, email the author and ask.

 3. Where is the information coming from?

  • Domain names gives basic information on where the data is originating. The domain name is the first piece of information after the http:// of an Internet address. For example, the domain name for Mt. SAC is www.mtsac.edu.
  • Extensions are part of the domain name (such as .edu) and indicate the type of organization that is responsible for the information. Common extensions include:
    • .gov A U.S. government website. Governmental agencies publish most of their information online.
      • We can assume some level of editorial control over the content.
    • .edu A college or university website. The schools publish information, as do faculty, staff, and students.
      • We can assume limited editorial control of content.
    • .org An organizational website. From professional (American Medical Association) to political (NRA).
      • We can assume some editorial control of content, but must consider organizational goals.
    • .net An Internet service company. Internet service companies allow subscribers to publish websites.
      • We can assume only the author has editorial control of the content.
    • .com A commercial website. Commercial websites deserve the most scrutiny by researchers.
      • We can assume the company has editorial control and intends to sell you something, whether a product or opinion.

 4. Did someone else consider this information to be acceptable?

  • Was it reviewed or recommended in a professional journal?
  • Was it linked from another site whose authority and reliability you trust?
    • Most search engines do not screen or evaluate the sites that they index.
    • Directories and pathfinders are based on the selectivity of their creators.

 5. Can you write a 1-2 sentence explanation of why your Internet source is authoritative enough to include  in your list of works cited?

 --Your audience will be looking at your works cited to determine how credible you are as an author.

 *Created May, 2000 by Deb Distante