Finding and Evaluating a Web Site
Anyone can publish almost anything on the web. You need to be especially careful of accepting information from a web site without a non-web, reliable source to verify the information. Hoax sites are common and web sites are often used as personal forums for opinions, not always facts. You can begin evaluating a web site according to some basic criteria such as the ones listed using the following acronym:
A | Authority:
Who is responsible for the site and its contents? Is it verifiable? Does someone claim to be a physician, scholar, etc. Can you look them up to make sure they are? Is there a physical address for the site? Is there an email or phone number?
U | Updates
Is the site current or outdated? Look at a variety of pages, not just the first page. If every page is 'today's date' be wary that it isn't an automatic update from a computer.
P | Purpose
Who is the target audience and what are the objectives of the creator of the site? Are they trying to sell something? Are they trying to convince you of something? Is the site for specialists, beginners, scholars, personal friends or others?
A | Access/Design
Is the site technically reliable (links work) and is it aesthetically pleasing? Not only do links work but do they have an easy way to go from a lower level page to the main home page? Do the links work and are they updated as necessary? Is the site easy to print or email from? Do they use a white font on a black background which is hard to print?
C | Content
Look at the quality, bias, and scholarship of the site. Is the information verifiable elsewhere? What is the bias of the site? Every site has some bias (the library tries to get you to use quality information so the library is biased toward scholarly sites that include topics taught in AUP courses). What is the bias of the site you are inspecting? Be aware if it influences you and how. Are there scholarly works on the site? Do they give citations of reliable sources within articles and pages?
You can find more in depth information in the tutorial on Web Evaluation.