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Evaluating Websites on the Internet
|Ownership & Authorship
- Who is the "publisher" of the web site?
- Is the publisher the official site for an association?
- Is the publisher a recognized authority in the field?
- Is there an address, phone number, or other contact information provided for the publisher?
- Will it be possible to find background information about this publisher?
- Is this publisher an appropriate resource for the information being presented?
- Who is the author?
- Is a personal author identified for the information, articles, or documents presented at the web site?
- Do you know that this author is respected in his/her field? Is it clear what his/her credentials are?
- Is there biographical information provided? Will it be possible to find background information about this author?
- Is there a way to contact the author?
Tip: A reference librarian may be able to recommend resources which will help you learn more about the publisher and author!
|Point of View, Bias, or Objectivity
- First, use the "domain" of the URL to determine what type of site you are looking at:
- .com = commercial site
- .gov = U.S. government site
- .org = non-profit organization site (usually, but not always)
- .mil = U.S. military sites and agencies
- .net = networks/Internet Service Providers
- ~ = usually indicates a personal home page
- Is the publisher of the site likely to have any particular agenda (e.g. political, philosophical, commercial)?
- Does the author appear to have a particular bias?
Tip: When in doubt, search for domain name ownership information at WHOIS.
|Content & Scope
- What is the purpose of the web site? Why is this information being provided? Is it:
- scholarly research?
- general educational or factual information?
- an editorial or persuasive argument?
- a sales pitch?
- an advertisement?
- a hoax?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Does the information presented appear to be complete and comprehensive?
- Are there links provided to other sources of information on this same topic?
- If this is a research document is there an explanation of the research method(s) used?
- Is there a bibliography?
- When statistics and other types of factual data are presented are they cited so that they may be verified?
- Is the document generally well-written? Free of spelling mistakes? Free of typographical errors?
- Is currency important to the type of information being presented? (For some types of information currency may not be important).
- Are any of the following dates provided?
- creation date
- post date
- revision date
- In cases where there is statistical data or factual data is it indicated when that data was gathered?
- Does the information seem to be out-of-date and therefore irrelevant and/or unreliable?
- Do the links provided on the site work (i.e. do they get you where you need to go)?
|Compare, Contrast, Confirm
- How does the information presented on the web site compare to information you have gathered elsewhere - including other web sites, books, journal articles, interviews, etc.?
- Do the theories or information presented agree or disagree with established scholarship or widely held points of view?
- Can data and pieces of factual information be confirmed using other sources?
Zimdar's list of questionable news sources
Dr. Melissa Zimdars is a professor of Communication and Media at Merrimack College in Massachusetts. She compiles a detailed list of all types of questionable news sites from satirical to just plain false.
Otera's graphic for reliable news sources
Vanessa Otera, a patent attorney, created this graphic of reliable news outlets: