This Web Site Useful for My Research?
has made it possible for millions of people from across the world
to spread their ideas, sell their products, or just communicate
with millions of other people across the world. Access to information
has now become easier than ever before. However, with so many
web sites out there, current estimates put the number between
250 – 830 Million, it’s hard to tell which sites contain relevant
and trustworthy information, and which do not. When viewing an
Internet site, ask yourself the following basic questions to see
if the site fits your criteria. If you are still unsure or need
additional help, ask a professional librarian.
the search - How did I find this site?
a professor, librarian, or other educational professional
recommend this site? If so, the site has probably been
reviewed by someone who knows what kind of information you
might need. By no means should you stop there and assume that
the site is relevant. However, you are probably on the right
you find the site using an Internet Index? There are many
web sites, books, and other resources that review and recommend
Internet resources. One of the better sites is The
Internet Public Library (www.ipl.org). In addition, there
are many worthwhile subject guides on the Internet, mainly
from academic, public library and government sources. These
so-called "gateway sites" are an effective way to begin your
you find the site using an Internet search engine? Internet
search engines allow one to search for Internet sites throughout
the entire web. However, a search engine is an automated tool,
and with such a huge amount of information to cover, it can
not distinguish between what is relevant and irrelevant, what
is new and what is outdated, or what is objective and what
is biased. It can only return sites that include the words
or phrases you searched for. Some search engines include Excite
and Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com).
– Who created this page?
type of organization does this page come from? The type
of organization a web site comes from may indicate the purpose
of the page. At the top level of a domain name (www.yahoo.com)
the organizational type is indicated.
means that it is coming from an educational source such as
a college or school. A .EDU tag usually means that there is
an educational purpose to the site, although many students
and faculty have personal pages on university servers. Therefore,
you should not take .EDU to automatically mean that it is
suitable for your research.
means that it is from a business. This should indicate to
you that there may be a profit motive behind the site (They
are trying to sell you something), although that is not always
the case. Most online news sources are .COM and these may
be relevant and useful to your research. Make sure that when
using these sites that the advertising, if any, is kept separate
from the content, and that this site does not let advertisers
indicates that it is from a non-profit organization. Some
of these sites are biased and some are not. All that .ORG
indicates is that the organization is non-profit. Many public
libraries and cultural institutions are .ORG, but so are many
groups with agendas.
indicates that is a government source. The information from
a .GOV is coming directly from a government body.
indicates that it is coming from an Internet-related body
such as an Internet service provider.
is the Author/source of information for the site? Most
reputable web sites clearly indicate the author and/or organization
responsible for its content. You should be able to judge the
credibility of the author based on the credentials (qualifications,
other works, biography, organizational affiliations, etc.)
that are provided.
– How up to date is the site?
was the site last updated? Be aware that the Internet
is an extremely dynamic medium. Without any notice, sites
are added, deleted, changed, or otherwise altered. Likewise,
there are many sites that have never been updated, leaving
the information out of date or irrelevant. Most reputable
site list the date of its last update. Many also include lists
of what exactly on the site has been updated and when.
– What can I find on this site?
is the scope of this site? A site may cover a great deal
of information on your topic, only provide basic facts, or
cover a narrow subdivision of your field. Just as if you were
using a print source, if the site does not provide the appropriate
coverage for your needs, you should look elsewhere.
is the intended audience of this site? As with books or
journals, web sites are aimed at a particular group of people.
You should be aware if the site is aimed at a popular, scholarly,
or professional audience. Knowing to whom the site is intended
can help you to judge if it is appropriate for your research.
accurate is the information provided? If the information
on the site is being presented as fact, the authors should
be able to provide a method of substantiating those facts,
just like the authors of a book or journal article. You should
always check to see what references are being used to back
up the facts presented. If no references are presented, that
may be a sign that the information is inaccurate or is opinion
rather than fact. When opinion is offered on a site, it should
be taken as such. Information taken from USENET Newsgroups
or other discussion groups or lists normally reflects the
author’s opinions rather than fact.
– What is the point of view of this site?
the author clearly indicate what the purpose of the site is?
Producing a web site does not require the fact checking
and review that publishing a scholarly article or book does.
Therefore, most good sites make clear what their purpose is.
You should know whether their aim is to provide information,
provide opinion, sell a product, or entertain.
bias, if any, is being projected? Many sites, particularly
those related to controversial topics, are pushing a particular
point of view. Just as in using print sources, you should
be able to identify what the opinion of the author is and
if the information provided is still credible for your research.
- More Information
– Where can I find additional hints, tutorials, or exercises in
evaluating Internet sources?
by I. Wang 3/2003
sites and pamphlet provide additional details, hints, and
exercises in evaluating information on the web.
State University. Evaluating
Information Web Tutorial.
C.W. Post. Evaluating
Information & Citing Sources.
Hannelore, Reinhart, Billie, Thompson, Gary. Evaluating
Information: A Basic Checklist. American Library Association,
Quality on the Web.