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Evaluating web resources

Why you need to evaluate web resources

All information needs to be evaluated regarding its validity, accuracy, reliability and lack of bias.  This is particularly true of information found via the web.  Publishing on the web is easy, inexpensive and available to anyone, which makes it easy for someone to misrepresent themselves or to print information that is not suitable for use in academic research.  Below you will find information, including questions you should ask yourself, regarding the sources you have found to establish if they are suitable.

Evaluating web resources

CRITERIA                                      Questions to ask                                                                                                                                           

AUTHOR   (WHO?)   

 

  • Is the name of the author (person or organisation) given?
  • What are the author's qualifications and are they affiliated with an institution?
  • Is the author an expert on the subject?  Has the author published other materials on the subject?
  • Is there an email address or other contact details?
VALIDITY/ACCURACY/POINT OF VIEW   (WHAT?)
  • Is the information factual or opinion?
  • Is it original or taken from somewhere, or simply links to other webpages?
  • Are the sources of information given?  For example, is there a bibliography or a list of references?
  • If facts or statistics are given, are they from reputable sources?
  • Does it cover different points of view, theories, "schools of thought"?  Is it promoting the view of a certain group or organisation?

CURRENCY   (WHEN?)

 

  • Is there a date given?  Is there a date to show when it was last revised or updated?
  • If it is not current or recent, is it still useful or relevant for your assignement?
  • Are the links up to date?
ORIGIN   (WHERE?)
  • Who is the provider or corporate sponsor of the website?  For example, is it an academic institution (.edu or .ac), a government body (.gov), a commercial agency (.com), or a non-profit organisaiton (.org)?
  • Is it a reputable organisation?  Is there an "About Us" link to tell you who they are?
  • Is it relevant for what you are doing?  For example, if you are looking for Australian materials, you may want to look for something published in Australia or about Australia.
AUDIENCE   (WHY?)
  • What is the purpose of the book or article?  To inform or teach? To persuade? To sell something?  To entertain?
  • Is it written for the general public, university students, researchers, or experts?
  • Is it too simple, too technical, or too advanced for your needs?
  • It is objective, or is it promoting the view of a certain group or organisation?

Information contained in this handout has been adapted from the following websites:
http://lib.colostate.edu/howto/evalweb.html
http://www.vts.intute.ac.uk/detective/goodbadugly.html

A useful website on evaluating information:
http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/Evaluate.html