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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?

Authority

  • 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?

Currency

  • 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?

Accountability

  • 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?

Page Created & Maintained by: Matthew R. Smith | Last Updated: February 25, 2014 | © 2009

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