Evaluating Web Resources

Information on the Web generally is not carefully evaluated and selected by editors and librarians. Anyone can publish anything on the Web, so you must evaluate Web sources more thoroughly than library resources. Look for information that is: reliable, accurate, current, and objective.

Reliable. Information that comes from a reliable source clearly shows:

  • Who is responsible for page's content
  • Author's qualifications
  • If there is a parent organization, and if so, its background and purpose
  • Who to contact about the information on the site

Answer the following questions:

  • Can you identify the writer or publisher of the information? __Yes __No
  • Do you have reason to be confident in this person or organization? __Yes __No
  • Are you able to contact this person or organization about this content? __Yes __No

If you answered No to any of the above questions, then consider using another source.

Accurate. An accurate source presents information that:

  • Is detailed and comprehensive
  • Is recent, where appropriate
  • Lists sources for presented information
  • Links to reputable outside sources

Answer the following questions:

  • Are there factual errors or information you know is inaccurate (lies, distortions)? __Yes __No
  • Is there dubious data (statistics with no source or explanation of how obtained?) __Yes __No
  • Do you see misspellings or other grammatical errors? __Yes __No

If you answered Yes to any of the above questions, then consider using another source.

Current. A current site is one that is frequently updated and maintained. It shows:

  • The date the page was written or placed on the Web
  • The date the page was last revised

Answer the following questions:

  • Are the dates described above missing? __Yes __No
  • Is there information that you know to be stale or out of date? __Yes __No
  • Does the page link to other pages that are no longer available? __Yes __No

If you answered Yes to any of the above questions, then consider using another source.

Objective. An objective source:

  • Presents information with a minimum of bias (remember, there is always some bias)
  • Is fair, balanced, and reasonable
  • Is without conflict of interest

Answer the following questions:

  • Is the content based on opinion, rather than fact? __Yes __No
  • Is the author misrepresenting facts to manipulate your point of view? __Yes __No
  • Is there advertising that might suggest possible pressure on the authors? __Yes __No

If you answered Yes to any of the above questions, then consider using another source.

Sample Evaluation

Suppose that you are looking for information on how to quit smoking.
Take a look at two sites found through an Internet search engine.

 

Smoking Cessation

Quit Smoking Cigarettes

Reliable

Writer or publisher

National Center For Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dale Pray. No information on site. Search for "Dale Pray" leads to no additional information.

Confidence in source

Respected source of information on health, diseases, and prevention.

We have no way to evaluate Dale Pray's qualifications.

Contact information

Phone number and mailing address on every page.

Email address only.

Accurate

Factual errors

Detailed, comprehensive coverage, with liberal links to trusted sources and resources.

Personal account with no factual support.

Dubious data

Supports all claims with references to sources.

Does not show source for data.

Misspellings, grammatical errors

Clear, error-free language.

Liberal use of slang.

Current

Date of publication/last update

Clearly documents dates of publication and updates.

Unknown.

Stale information

Frequently updated.

Hard to determine due to lack of precise information.

Linked pages not available

All links lead to live pages.

Several links go nowhere or to unexpected location.

Objective

Minimum bias

Site designed to promote quitting smoking. Addresses difficulties as well as possible methods.

Language and stories show strong bias against people who continue to smoke.

Manipulation of facts

Presents facts with no judgement or attempt to manipulate reader.

Emotional language intended to manipulate reader's view.

Conflict of interest

Does not advertise or promote a specific product or method.

Does not advertise or promote specific product.

 
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