IntroductionThe quality of information available on the internet can vary significantly and the ability to critically evaluate sources is an important skill. The internet is a system of networks and a communications tool, not a source. It is essential to analyze any source, but especially web resources, for content, validity, and appropriateness. Unlike journals or books, web pages frequently lack editors or publishers who filter out misinformation.
- How to Evaluate Information on the Web. (Widener University, Wolfgram Memorial Library)
- Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals This video answers the question: "What is a peer-reviewed journal?" (Vanderbilt University, Peabody Library) (3 minutes)
Questions to ask about web resources
- Who is responsible for the contents of the page?
- If the site is sponsored by an organization, is this information prominently and clearly displayed?
- Is there a way of verifying the legitimacy of the page's sponsor? Is there a phone number or postal address to contact for more information? (Simply an email address is not enough.)
- Is it clear who wrote the material and are the author's qualifications for writing on this topic clearly stated?
- Are the sources for any factual information clearly listed so they can be verified in another source?
- If data are included, is the source of the data indicated?
- Is the information free of grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors? (These kinds of errors not only indicate a lack of quality control, but also can actually produce inaccuracies in information.)
- Is it clear who has ultimate responsibility for the accuracy of the content of the material?
- Does the data/information make sense?
- What is the purpose of the site?
- Is the information intended for consumers, employees, investors, students, researchers, specialists, or experts?
- Does the page appear to be marketing services or products?
- Are any biases or assumptions noted?
- Is the author or sponsor of the page advocating particular viewpoints or causes?
- Is the information free of advertising? If not, are the advertisements clearly differentiated from the informational content?
- Are there dates on the page to indicate when the page was last revised?
- Is the page updated on a regular basis?
- Are the links updated on a regular basis?
- If material is presented in graphs and/or charts, is it clearly stated when the data was gathered?
- Is there an indication that the page has been completed, and is not still under construction?
- If there is a print equivalent to the web page, is there a clear indication of whether the entire work is available on the web or only parts of it?
- If the material is from a work which is out of copyright (as is often the case with a dictionary or thesaurus) has there been an effort to update the material to make it more current?
QUALITY OF THE PAGE
- Do the links work?
- Is the page well organized and easy to navigate?
This checklist was compiled from "Evaluating Web Resources" from David and Lorraine Cheng Library, William Patterson University.