Evaluating Web Pages as Information Sources
Purpose or Intent
- What is the purpose of the page or site? To inform? To persuade? To advocate? To sell? To entertain?
- What is the intended audience? The general public? Scholars? Other professionals familiar with the content? Students? Other critical readers?
Scope, Content, and Presentation
- Is there a section of the site that explicitly describes the breadth and depth of its coverage of the subject?
- Is the breadth and depth of coverage clearly reflected in the structure of the site?
- Is the information and its presentation well-informed? Balanced? Logically selected, structured, and presented?
- How detailed or general is the information?
- Does the site present verifiable or commonly known facts? Assertions supported by data and logical argument? Subjective opinions without supporting data or logical argument?
- Does the content or its presentation seem to have a bias? If so, is the bias acknowledged or is it unstated?
- Does the author acknowledge the existence of differing positions as appropriate?
- Does the site use graphics and multi-media effects appropriately to enhance content? Does the site seem to be a showplace for the author's graphics and multi-media skills with little in the way of substantive content?
- Does the site include links to other sites? Are these sites appropriate and of high quality?
- Are persons responsible for content named? Is it possible to differentiate between contributors of content and a site-wide "Webmaster," especially for complex sites? What are their credentials?
- Is the site sponsored by a reputable organization? Is the organization an educational or research institution, museum, government body, or other body that is well-known in the field? Does the site have a page that describes the organization, its interests, and its objectives?
- Do the individuals or the organization seem to have a political, marketing, or other agenda that may lead to bias? If so, is this agenda acknowledged or unstated?
- Is the content produced by a single person or group, or are there contributions by others?
- If there are contributions by others, is there editorial control over the quality of submissions, or can anyone submit anything? What kind of control is there? Are submissions peer-reviewed?
- When was the page created?
- When was the page last edited?
- Are all or most links on the page up-to-date or are there many "dead" or "blind" links?
- Does the content seem to be up-to-date? If the content mentions dates and events, does it seem to include the most recent, or do they seem to stop two, three, or more years into the past?
- If sources (books, articles, etc.) are cited, do references seem to include recent materials as appropriate, or do these seem to stop two, three, or more years into the past?
- Does the nature of the subject demand the most up-to-date information or does information that is several years old remain useful?
- Does the author cite sources?
- Are opinions and assertions supported by data and logical arguments?
- Does the author acknowledge the existence of differing positions as appropriate? Are links providing to sources of information that may not be in agreement with the site's content?
- Is there an e-mail link or other contact information for the author? Does the author respond to serious inquiries related to the content?