Evaluating Websites

Five criteria for evaluating Web pages

Evaluation of Web documentsHow to interpret the basics
1. Accuracy of Web Documents
  • Who wrote the page and can you contact him or her?
  • What is the purpose of the document and why was it produced?
  • Is this person qualified to write this document?
  • Make sure author provides e-mail or a contact address/phone number.
  • Know the distinction between author and Webmaster.
2. Authority of Web Documents
  • Who published the document and is it separate from the "Webmaster?"
  • Check the domain of the document, what institution publishes this document?
  • Does the publisher list his or her qualifications?
  • What credentials are listed for the authors)?
  • Where is the document published? Check URL domain.
3. Objectivity of Web Documents
  • What goals/objectives does this page meet?
  • How detailed is the information?
  • What opinions (if any) are expressed by the author?
  • Determine if page is a mask for advertising; if so information might be biased.
  • View any Web page as you would an infommercial on television. Ask yourself: why was this written and for whom?
4. Currency of Web Documents
  • When was it produced?
  • When was it updated?
  • How up-to-date are the links (if any)?
  • How many dead links are on the page?
  • Are the links current or updated regularly?
  • Is the information on the page outdated?
5. Coverage of the Web Documents
  • Are the links (if any) evaluated and do they complement the documents' themes?
  • Is it all images or a balance of text and images?
  • Is the information presented cited correctly?
  • If page requires special software to view the information, how much are you missing if you don't have the software?
  • Is it free or is there a fee to obtain the information?
  • Is there an option for text only, or frames, or a suggested browser for better viewing?
Putting it all together
  • Accuracy. If your page lists the author and institution that published the page and provides a way of contacting him/her and . . .
  • Authority. If your page lists the author credentials and its domain is preferred (.edu, .gov, .org, or .net), and, . .
  • Objectivity. If your page provides accurate information with limited advertising and it is objective in presenting the information, and . . .
  • Currency. If your page is current and updated regularly (as stated on the page) and the links (if any) are also up-to-date, and . . .
  • Coverage. If you can view the information properly--not limited to fees, browser technology, or software requirement, then . . .

    You may have a Web page that could be of value to your research!

FROM: Kapoun, Jim. "Teaching undergrads WEB evaluation: A guide for library instruction." C&RL News (July/August 1998): 522-523.

.com - commercial business 

These sites promote and sell products. Such a site may post information as public service as long as it doesn't conflict with any of the products being promoted. This can skew the information presented, so that you may not get a complete, balanced view. Some commercial companies present themselves as nonprofits by using the .org suffix.

.org - organizations (service-oriented, nonprofit) 

Be sure to read the organization's mission statement to understand its underlying values which may influence the content. The fact the group is nonprofit doesn't automatically mean the content it posts is accurate.

.net - network organizations 

It's hard to tell much about organizations that sponsor these sites. Such a site might be sponsored by a network provider, a commercial organization, or even a nonprofit group.

.gov - government agencies (federal) 

These sites usually present factual information and have built-in checks and balances to ensure the information posted is accurate.

.edu - educational institutions 

These sites often sponsor universities and research institutes and post content related to their research focus. If a faculty member's name appears in the URL, it may mean the university sponsors this as a personal page for a professor but doesn't necessarily endorse the content posted.

Unfortunately, the assignment of the certain suffixes isn't well-regulated, so a suffix may not accurately reflect the nature of a website. This uncertainty underscores the need to evaluate each site carefully.
Adapted from:Kristin Stanberry