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Evaluating Information

Why should I evaluate information from the Web?

Anybody can publish anything on the Web. Information doesn’t have to be true to be on the Web and so it’s up to users to judge whether information is reliable.

Use the following checklist to help you judge the reliability and usefulness of information from the Web.

 Who is responsible for the Web site?

  • If an organization is sponsoring the site, consider the organization’s reputation.
  • Is a personal author named? If so, what are the author’s credentials?
  • Check the site for information about the organization and/or author. If no credentials are listed on the site, use a search engine to look for information about the author’s credentials.

Look at the following websites. Are you able to find out who is responsible for them?

 What kind of organization is responsible for the site?

The last few letters at the end of the URL (Uniform Resource Locator or Web address) give you clues about the type of organization sponsoring the site. These abbreviations fall into two categories: country codes and generic domains. Below are several examples:

Country Codes: Generic Domains
.ca – Canada .com – commercial
.jp - Japan .edu – educational (mostly U.S.A.)
.us - United States .gov – U.S. government
.uk - United Kingdom  

Be aware that a .com Web site may try to sell or promote a product. Governments (.gov) are generally reliable sources of information. Educational sites (.edu) may include student-created pages as well as more scholarly information.

Look at the following websites. What do the last few letters at the end of the URL tell you about what kind of website it might be?

 When was the document created? When was the website last updated?

Be wary of using Web information that has no date, or has not been updated for several years.

Look at the following websites. Is it easy to tell when the websites have been updated? Is the information current?

 Is the information accurate?

When judging the site’s content, consider the following:

  • Are there obvious spelling and grammatical errors?
  • Are references listed giving the sources of factual information?
  • Is the content free of bias and stereotyping?
  • Are all of the important topics covered for this subject area? If in doubt, verify the site’s factual information in another source (book, article or Web).

Look at the following two websites. Is the information about AIDS presented on each site accurate?

 Is there objectivity?

  • Are the facts laid out in such a way that they are only representing one side of an argument? Is the content free of bias and stereotyping?
  • Is the information provided as a public service?
  • Is the information free of advertising, or if there is any advertising on the page, is it clearly differentiated from the informational content?
  • Are the organization»s biases (if any) clearly stated?

Look at the following two websites. How is information about the history of Halloween presented on each site?

  1. Alexander, J., & Tate, M. (2000, July 21). Evaluating Web resources. Retrieved February 23, 2001, from http://www2.widener.edu/Wolfgram-Memorial-Library/webevaluation/webeval.htm
  2. Westera, G. (2001, December 12). Viewing results and evaluating quality. Retrieved February 11, 2002, from Curtin University of Technology Web site: http://lisweb.curtin.edu/staff/gwpersonal/searchtut/eval.html