Web Page Evaluation

When considering using a web page for your research, think about the following criteria:

* Currency

* Authority

* Purpose, or Type of page

* Intended Audience

* Level of Scholarship

* Biased opinion

 

Ask yourself these questions to help you critically evaluate a web page:

1. Does the web page contain enough information to be useful?

2. Is the information current and actively updated? If current information is important for your research:

  • Check to see if the content dates are current.
  • If there are links on the page, are many of them dead?
  • Do the links go to current material?

Example of a current webpage: American Cancer Society
A non-current webpage: Web by Design: PowerPoint 2000 Basics

3. Is the web page biased or objective?

  • Check the internet for further information about and by the author of the page (a person or an organization). If it is obvious there is a particular agenda, make sure you note that if you choose to cite the page as an example of a bias.
  • Is there inflammatory language? If so , the page is biased.
  • Is the page trying to sell the reader a product or service (Mercola.com), or is it reporting on information? (WebMD.com)

The first example may not be objective due to advertising, the second is unbiased or objective. If there is advertising on the page, can it be differentiated from the informational content?

  • Is the page trying to convince the reader of one point of view or a particular agenda?  Or does the page urge the reader to consider both sides the argument?

To note: Most information has some sort of bias that you may either agree or disagree with. It is important to identify the bias and understand how that applies to your research if you choose to cite a page.

Objective web page:
Consumer Reports


Biased web pages:
Fox News
Natural Resources Defense Council

Biased and misleading web page:

Martin Luther King Jr.: A True Historical Examination
This page is not only biased, but it presents wrong information. See question
#7 to learn more about identifying fraudulent websites.


4. Is the author or organization an authoritative source? Is the information reliable?

  • Is the author's or organization's name and contact information clearly visible? Is there a biography or an "about" page?
  • What are the author's qualifications, education, occupation? Is the organization reputable?
  • Is there a bibliography or a source list? Are there footnotes or links to reputable cited sources?

Search for the author/organization on other sites to check authority. Some websites have "accredited" stamps.

                        

 

Authoritative source:

Secondhand Smoke 

Non-authoritative source:

The Facts About Secondhand Smoke

 

5.  What kind of page is it? Who is the intended audience?

  • An Institutional site? Do you recognize the Institution?

Some official URLs:
    University or other Educational sites (.edu),
    Government (.gov, .mil),
    Non-Profit (.org) [no longer just for non-profits, please check.]

  • Personal webpage or blog? If so, investigate the author, since there is no larger institution vetting the content.    

Some blog urls:
    tumblr.com,
    wordpress.com,
    blogspot.com,
    blogger.com

Visit ICANN [Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers] for a list of the most common top level domains.

  • Judging from the tone and type of page, who is the intended audience? For example, if it is a personal blog, it may be intended for a niche audience. If it is a governmental site, it is intended for widespread public viewing.

Use Whois.net to see who has registered the domain name of the URL, and alexa.com to see ownership and web traffic information, and what categories the site fits under.

 

6. Is the information on the web site reproduced from another source?

  • Make sure the information is unaltered.
  • Look for copyright permissions to reproduce, and the link to theoriginal resource. The web page may have illegally reproduced an original document.

 

7. Is the web page a hoax, spoof, or joke site? Is it in any way fraudulent?

  • What is the tone of the page?
http://www.theonion.com/
http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus/
http://www.furnetics.com/ 
Taken out of context, some may think this is real news:
Onion

  Nate Silver Vows To Teach Chris Berman How To Read

Watch groups scan the web for mis-information, fraudulent, and fanatical web sites. Virtual Chase maintains an updated list of these groups.

Examples:

http://www.dhmo.org/ An example of an intentionally fraudulent webpage that has the appearance of being official. Note the fake EAC logo:

            

Here is the official logo of the actual governmental organization       <=== Here is the official logo of the actual governmental organization      

Last Updated: 10/1/13