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The Internet is an unregulated community with no oversight for content. Since anyone can create a website, always evaluate information found online before using it.

Evaluating internet sites effectively requires you to do two things at once:

  • Use your eyes to quickly find what you need to know about the web page.
  • Use your mind to think critically, even suspiciously, by asking a series of questions that will help you decide if the information you have found should be trusted.

Below are some suggested questions and interpretations to help you evaluate the websites you encounter.

ACCURACY

Ask yourself:

  • Are the sources for factual information clearly listed so that the information can be verified through an independent source?
  • Is it clear who has the ultimate responsibility for the accuracy of the information?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Is the website free of grammatical, spelling, or typographical errors?

There is a difference between the author and the webmaster, be sure the author of the information is identified and contact information is provided.

AUTHORITY

Ask yourself:

  • Who created this information and why?
  • What knowledge or skills do they have in the area?
  • Is he or she stating fact or opinion?
  • If the author is an institution, have you heard of it before? Can you find out more information about it?

Check the domain to verify the document's origin.  As a general rule, the following domains are published by authoritative sources:  .edu, .gov, and .org.

OBJECTIVITY

Ask yourself:

  • Is the information covered fact, opinion, or propaganda?
  • Is the author's point-of-view objective and impartial?
  • Is the language free of emotion-rousing words and bias?
  • Is the author affiliated with an identifiable organization?
  • Could the information be meant as humorous, a parody, or satire?


Be wary of websites that look informational despite their intentions to advertise ideas, opinions, and products.

CURRENTNESS

Ask yourself:

  • When was this article published?
  • Does the information in the article seem relevant? 
  • How recent were the events the article discusses? 
  • Is it updated regularly? 
  • Based on the topic of your reasearch, how old can an article be until it starts to become outdated? 

Look for a publication date, it is usually at the top or bottom of the article. Also check to see if links on the page still work. 

COVERAGE

Ask yourself:

  • Are the links (if any) evaluated and do they complement the documents' themes?
  • Is the information presented attributed to an originating source and is that source cited correctly?
  • If the page requires special software to view, how much are you missing if you don't have the software?
  • Is the information free or is there a fee associated with access?


Accessibility is an important consideration when using and citing online sources.  It is best to use resources that are likely to still be available for reference in the future.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

The site you have found may be of value if...

Accuracy

...it lists the author and institution that published the page and provides a way of contacting him/her, and...

Authority

...it lists the author's credentials and its domain is preferred (.edu, .gov, or .org), and...

Objectivity

...it provides accurate information with limited advertising and it avoids presenting biased information, and...

Currentness

...it is current and updated regularly (as stated on the page) and the links (if any) are also up-to-date, and...

Coverage

...you can view the information properly and are not limited by fees, browser technology, or software requirements.

MORE ABOUT EVALUATING WEBSITES

Cornell University Library
Evaluating Web Sites: Criteria and Tools

Duke University Libraries
Evaluating Web Pages

UC Berkeley Library
Evaluating Web Pages