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ENG 023 - Walters: Website Evaluation

Evaluating Websites on the Internet

Ownership & Authorship
  • Who is the "publisher" (organization, company, person) 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:
    • .edu = educational site
    • .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?
    • entertainment?
    • misinformation?
    • 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?  
Accuracy
  • 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?
Currency
  • 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?

Finding reliable websites on the Internet

Google's Advanced Search

  • Use Google’s advanced search to limit your results to more reliable domains (e.g. .gov and .edu). 
    • put in your keywords and then add this phrase to your search to find educational institution sites:    site:.edu 
    • put in your keywords and then add this phrase to your search to find organization sites:   site:.org
  • More tips on how to power search Google are HERE.

 

Tips for searching Google

  1. site:.[extension]   put in your keywords and then add site: [extension for website, like .com]
    • for example:  scholarships   site:.edu
    • site:.org for organizations; site:.gov for government sites
  2. Use quotes for names and phrases:  "Donald Trump"   "climate change"   "left wing"
  3. Use a hyphen to exclude terms:  football  -soccer
  4. Search a range of numbers with two dots:    2008..     100..150       ..50
    1. This works great with monetary vaules, for example, $10.00..$50.00