Finding and Evaluating a Web SiteFirst you can try using Proquest Research Companion which has an Evaluating Information section. You can read how to evaluate sources and you can 'plug in' a url and see what it says. Go to Evaluate Information, click on Source Evaluation Aid. Next click on Website and put in the url (web address) of the page you want to evaluate. Click the magnifying glass and see the results. It will list the domain, site owner (you can look this up yourself at http://whois.org) and a site description taken from the site itself. Obviously you need to look at the site itself to find out more but this is a start and should help you get started with identifying how useful the page is.
For the site above, http://martinlutherking.org, the site is owned by Don Black of Stormfront. Do you know who that is? Look up the owner and their possible reasons for creating the site. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Stormfront was "Created by former Alabama Klan boss and long-time white supremacist Don Black in 1995, Stormfront was the first major hate site on the Internet." Knowing this, your expectations of what information is on the site might be different and the bias of the site might be more obvious than if you hadn't looked up the owner.
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Is the site current or outdated?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.