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Library Research Support: Evaluating Web Sites

Taking a Hard Look at Web Sites

Guide to Evaluating Web Pages

Evaluation of Web documents
How to interpret the basics

1. Accuracy of Web Documents

  • Who wrote the page and can you contact him or her?
  • What is the purpose of the document and why was it produced?
  • Is this person qualified to write this document?

Accuracy

  • Make sure author provides e-mail or a contact address/phone number.
  • Know the distinction between author and Webmaster.

2. Authority of Web Documents

  • Who published the document and is it separate from the "Webmaster?"
  • Check the domain of the document, what institution publishes this document?
  • Does the publisher list his or her qualifications?

Authority

  • What credentials are listed for the author(s)?
  • Where is the document published?
  • Check URL domain.

3. Objectivity of Web Documents

  • What goals/objectives does this page meet?
  • How detailed is the information?
  • What opinions (if any) are expressed by the author?

Objectivity

  • Determine if page is a mask for advertising; if so information might be biased.
  • View any Web page as you would an infommercial on television.
  • Ask yourself why was this written and for whom?

4. Currency of Web Documents

  • When was it produced?
  • When was it updated?
  • How up-to-date are the links (if any)?

Currency

  • How many dead links are on the page?
  • Are the links current or updated regularly?
  • Is the information on the page outdated?

5. Coverage of the Web Documents

  • Are the links (if any) evaluated and do they complement the documents theme?
  • Is it all images or a balance of text and images?
  • Is the information presented cited correctly?

Coverage

  • If page requires special software to view the information, how much are you missing if you don't have the software?
  • Is it free, or is there a fee, to obtain the information?
  • Is there an option for text only, or frames, or a suggested browser for better viewing?

Putting it all together

  • Accuracy. If your page lists the author and institution that published the page and provides a way of contacting him/her, and...
  • Authority. If your page lists the author credentials and its domain is preferred (.edu, .gov, .org, or .net), and...
  • Objectivity. If your page provides accurate information with limited advertising and it is objective in presenting the information, and...
  • Currency. If your page is current and updated regularly (as stated on the page) and the links (if any) are also up-to-date, and...
  • Coverage. If you can view the information properly-not limited to fees, browser technology, or software requirement, then...
You may have a higher quality Web page that could be of value to your research.

Chart reproduced with permission from: Jim Kapoun. "Teaching undergraduates web evaulation." College and Research Library News. ACRL: Chicago. v.59, n.7, July/August 1998. Updated 12/2004. Copyright ©1996-2001 by Southwest State University Library.