Evaluating A Website
The curse and the wonder of the World Wide Web are one and the same- the provision of a forum in which anyone can share information whether it is fact, opinion or commentary. It allows for an openness not as easily provided in the traditional world of publishing. The websites, however, are not monitored by any one “authority” which increases the work you have to do when evaluating the information. Here are some things to look for in a home page that may help you to evaluate its “worthiness.”
The website’s sponsor should be displayed prominently on the home page along with a phone number or postal address (not just an e-mail address). Look for some indication of the author’s qualifications. A description of the organizational purpose should be linked in some way to the information page. You should be able to navigate easily from any part of the website back to the home page.
One clue to the source for the material on the website is the domain name. The domain name is part of the URL (uniform resource locator). Below is a list of the most common domain names. Compare the different perspectives on substance abuse based on the domain name.
The factual information should be referenced so that you can verify the accuracy. Errors in grammar and spelling may indicate poor quality control.
Realize that information provided in pages that include advertising may have a different bias and intent than those offered as a public service. Also remember that information presented by organizations or nonprofit groups will reflect their viewpoint on a particular issue.
Look for indications of when the page was written and when the page was revised. Look for signs of currency (tables, statistics) indicating that the site is regularly maintained.
If there is a print equivalent to the web page, try to determine whether the entire work or only a portion of it is available on the web.
For a more thorough explanation of web page evaluation, check out
- Evaluate Web Pages – Produced by the Wolfgram Memorial Library, Widener University.
- Finding Information on the Internet: A Tutorial – Produced by the Teaching Library of the University of California, Berkeley.
- Evaluating Information Found on the Internet – Prepared by Elizabeth E. Kirk and produced by the Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University.
- Web Site Evaluation Checklist – Produced by Lucy Scribner Library, Skidmore College.