K.1. Thinking Critically About World Wide Web Resources

The World Wide Web has a lot to offer, but not all sources are equally valuable or reliable. Here are some points to consider. For specific points regarding social networking and other sites that offer user-initiated options, see Thinking Critically About Web 2.0 and Beyond.

Content and Evaluation

  • Who is the audience?
  • What is the purpose of the Web Page and what does it contain?
  • How complete and accurate are the information and the links provided?
  • What is the relative value of the Web site in comparison to the range of information resources available on this topic? (Note: Be sure to check with a librarian.)
    • What other resources (print and non-print) are available in this area?
    • What are the date(s) of coverage of the site and site-specific documents?
    • How comprehensive is this site?
      • What are the link selection criteria if any?
      • Are the links relevant and appropriate for the site?
      • Is the site inward-focused, pointing outward, or both?
      • Is there an appropriate balance between inward-pointing links ("inlinks" i.e., within the same site) and outward-pointing links ("outlinks" i.e., to other sites)?
      • Are the links comprehensive or do they just provide a sampler?
      • What do the links offer that is not easily available in other sources?
      • Are the links evaluated in any way?
      • Is there an appropriate range of Internet resources -- e.g., links to relevant blogs, wikis, databases, etc.?
      • Is multimedia appropriately incorporated?
      • Are there social networking or user-initiated options, such as tagging, blogs or wikis, with the ability to post, and an RSS feed?
  • How valuable is the information provided in the Web Page (intrinsic value)?
  • For discipline-based sites...
    • Does the site claim to represent a group, an organization, an institution, a corporation or a governmental body?
    • Does the site offer a selected list of resources in a particular discipline or field or does it claim to offer a complete list? (Note: Be sure to check with a librarian on the range of information resources in a particular discipline.)
    • Does the site claim to describe or provide the results of research or scholarly effort?
      • Are sufficient references provided to other works, to document hypotheses, claims or assertions?
      • Are references cited fully?
      • Can the results be refuted or verified through other means--e.g., by use of library-related research tools?
    • Is any sort of third-party financial or other support or sponsorship evident?
    • Is advertising included at the site, and if so, has it had an impact on the content?
    • Does the site combine educational, research and scholarly information with commercial or non-commercial product or service marketing?
    • If the site is a simulation of an existing or historical area, how accurately is it depicted?
      • Who is overseeing this site?
      • What sort of expertise do they have?
      • How do they determine and ensure accuracy?

    Source and Date

    • Who is the author or sponsor?
    • What is the authority or expertise of the individual or group that created this site?
      • How knowledgeable is the individual or group on the subject matter of the site?
      • Is the site sponsored or co-sponsored by an individual or group that has created other Web sites?
      • Is the site officially or unofficially sponsored or supported by particular groups, organizations, institutions, corporations or governmental bodies?
      • Can the researchers, scholars, groups, organizations, institutions, corporations or governmental bodies listed as authors, sponsors or supporters, be verified as such, and what are their qualifications?
    • Is any sort of bias evident?
    • When was the Web item produced?
    • When was the Web item mounted?
    • When was the Web item last revised?
    • How up to date are the links?
    • How reliable are the links; are there blind links, or references to sites which have moved?
    • Is contact information for the author or sponsor provided?
    • Is there an About page, and if so, how informative and accurate is it?

    Structure

    • Does the document follow good graphic design principles?
    • Do the graphics and art serve a function or are they decorative?
    • Do the icons clearly represent what is intended?
    • Does the text follow basic rules of grammar, spelling and literary composition?
    • Is there an element of creativity, and does it add to or detract from the document itself?
    • Can the text stand alone for use in line-mode (text only) Web browsers as well as multimedia browsers, or is there an option for line-mode browsers?
    • Is attention paid to the needs of the disabled -- e.g., large print and graphics options; audio; alternative text for graphics; text only; non-frames and non-tables views of this site?
    • How usable is the site? Can visitors get the information they need within a reasonable number of links (preferably 3 or fewer clicks)?

    Other

    • Is there a fee for use of access to any of the information provided at this site, or is all information at this site freely available?
    • Is appropriate interactivity available?
    • When it is necessary to send confidential information out over the Internet, is encryption (i.e., a secure coding system) available? How secure is it?
    • Are there links to search engines or is a search engine attached to (embedded in) the Web site?

    References

    Created: June, 1995

    Please attribute any usage as follows: Created by Esther Grassian, the UCLA Library and used with permission.

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