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Finding and Evaluating Resources

Help with evaluating the web

When use the Internet for research


  • For opinions - Twitter, Facebook
  • For very recent information - Newsvine
  • To go to reliable sites (.gov, .org, .edu)


Why Evaluate?

  • Anyone can create a web site!
  • No peer review...
  • Academic standards are high.
  • Your professors expect you to provide quality citations with data that can be verified


Consider in Context

  • How many people died in Hurricane Katrina
  • Different answer found
    • The day of the hurricane
    • A week later
    • A month later
    • A year later
  • Think before using a 'fact' or a page


Who - Responsibility

  • Who is responsible for the site & content?
    • A person
    • An organization
    • Are they reliable? Reputable
  • Can you find contact info?
  • Is their background available?
  • Is the AUTHORITY reputable?
  • Everyone has sites - even the Flat Earth Society!


What - contents

  • Content itself
    • Scholarly quality? (bibliographies, etc.)
    • What is bias of site? (all site have some bias)
    • Does author show more than one side of an issue?
    • Relevant content?
    • Spelling, etc. well done? Or site sloppy and unprofessional?


When - Check currency

  • When were pages written
  • Last updated
  • Is date today on all pages? (automated, not real)
  • Should there be more recent information?


Why - purpose of site

  • Why did someone create the site?
    • To sell you something? Including an idea
    • To persuade you
    • To teach you
  • Who is the target audience - professionals, students, children?


How  - Look, mechanics

  • How well does it work?
  • The design - no dead links, dead photos
  • Easy to find what you need
  • Any plugins necessary

(This may be the least important in terms of scholarship but extremely important in terms of usability and reliability)


Evaluation of web sites

  • Who - responsible for site
  • What - contents (scholarly, bias)
  • When - written recently - currency
  • Why - purpose (teach, persuade, sell)
  • How - does it work? Easy to use?


Finding and Evaluating a Web Site


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Is the site current or outdated?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?