How Do I Evaluate Web Resources?
Why evaluate what you find on the Web?
- Anyone can put anything on the Web.
- There are no uniform standards for quality for what can be put on the Web.
- Most Web sites are not reviewed by experts in a subject as scholarly journal articles are.
- Most Web sites do not undergo any kind of editorial process as most books and many other types of print sources do.
Questions to ask about a Web site that can help you evaluate its quality fall into the following categories:
- Purpose and Content
- Structure and Ease of Use
- Site Accessability
Are there any other ways to identify quality web sites?
Evaluative Directories on the Web search databases that are usually created and maintained by academic editors and have some kind of rating or review system. They can prove useful in fiding better quality Web sites.
How can I learn more about evaluating Web sites?
Many useful and reputable sources on the Web provide further guidance in evaluating Web sites. Links to several are provided here:
Bibliography on Evaluating Internet Resources
This bibliography addresses the problems and issues related to teaching and using critical thinking skills to evaluate Internet resources. It includes Internet Resources, Print Resources, Example Web Sites, Useful Listservs, and Useful Books.
Criteria for Evaluation of Internet Information Resources
This site considers scope, content, graphic and multimedia design, purpose, reviews, workability, and cost when evaluating information found on the Internet. Definitions and critical questions are provided for criteria.
Evaluate Web Resources (part of WebSearch - The Web Research Resource
A comprehensive list of questions to ask in evaluating any Web site. Criteria are divided into sections that cover source, content, and format with the primary considerations being accuracy, authority, coverage, currency, and objectivity.
Evaluation of Information Sources
This page contains links to web sites that offer criteria for evaluating information resources. It is intended for librarians and others who are selecting sites to include in an information resource guide, or for users who are evaluating Internet information.
Evaluating Quality on the Net
This site presents an article that discusses how to evaluate quality on the Internet. Particularly useful are the author's key indicators of quality. Key indicators include ease of discovering the scope and inclusion criteria; ease of identifying authorship, currency, last update, and what was updated; stability of information; and ease of use.
Evaluating Web Resources
This site provides materials to assist in teaching how to evaluate the informational content of Web resources. It includes separate checklists for advocacy, business/marketing, news, informational, and personal pages. It also provides a bibliography of materials on applying critical thinking techniques to Web resources.
How to Evaluate Web Pages. Questions to Ask. Strategies for Getting the Answers
This site asks critical questions pertaining the quality of Internet websites: What can the URL tell you? Who wrote the page? Is he, she, or the authoring institution a qualified authority? Is it dated? Current, timely? Is information cited authentic? Does the page have overall integrity and reliability as a source? What's the bias? Could the page or site be ironic, like a satire or a spoof ? If you have questions or reservations, how can you satisfy them? It also provides dictionary links to Web and Internet jargon.
Acknowledgment is given to Joyce Lindstrom, the Government Documents Librarian at Iowa State University Library and Eddie Byrne of Dublin, Ireland, on whose web sites much of the content of this collection of pages is based.
- Is it clear who is responsible for the site?
- Can their Internet presence be located?
- What are the site creator's qualifications? (Try looking up the person responsible for the Web site in a biographical source. You might also check an online database that covers the same subject as the author's Web site is to see if they have written other things, and, if so, in what type of publications his or her work has been published. If an organization is responsible for the site, what do others say about it? )
- Is there an address or phone number you can use to verify the legitimacy of the author or the organization? (An email address can be misleading.)
- Is the information provided copyrighted?
- How reputable are sites to which the site is linked?
- Is there evidence that the information is checked and verified and, if so, how is it done?
Purpose and Content
- What type of resource is it? For example, is it an electronic journal, a database, a personal page, or a Email archive?
- What does it contain?
- Are the criteria for inclusion of information indicated?
- Is the name of the site descriptive of its content?
- Why was the site created? (The Web site's address, its URL, can provide clues about the intended purpose of the site. For example, ".com" in a URL usually means the site was created for business purposes.)
- What is the motive for providing the information?
- Does it appear to have been created to inform or persuade its audience, to explain something to them, or to sell them something?
- Is any advertising present and, if so, does it affect the site's main content?
- Does the site's content show evidence of bias?
- Has an attempt been made to present a balanced viewpoint?
- Is the content to be considered fact or opinion (interpretation of fact), or even propaganda? (The creator's writing style can provide clues here as can claims backed by evidence pointed to.)
- Are the scope of subject coverage and time frame indicated?
- Are there any stated limits to the treatment of the information covered?
- Does the content match the stated scope, purpose, and audience?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Is the information appropriate to your needs or those of the intended audience?
- Should it be viewed by children?
- Is it a vanity work or scholarly?
- Is it the result of research?
- Does it contribute original or new information?
- Are there errors present?
- Does the material support other work or contradict it?
- Is the content taken from another source and, if so, is this indicated?
- Does the content present the most valuable information available on its subject?
- Is it a primary (original work) or secondary source?
- How clearly is such indicated?
- Is the site referenced or reviewed in any subject guide/citation index to Internet resources?
- How did you find out about the site?
- Is there a bibliography or list of references present and, if so, are they in a recognizable and consistent style?
- Is there a print equivalent?
- If so, is complete information from the print original available on the Web site or is only part of the full content present?
- When was the material written?
- When was the information revised or the site last updated?
- Does it appear to have been thoroughly rewritten when last updated or were only cosmetic changes made?
- Is there evidence of a commitment to maintain the site?
- Is the site updated by the original author or someone else?
- Is the type of material presented of the sort that it's important that it be kept up to date?
- If a date is given is it made clear what it indicates?
- Is there a "What's New" section that highlights recent changes to the site?
- What type of resource is it?
- For example, is it an electronic journal, a database, a personal page, or a Email archive?
Structure and Ease of Use
- Is the site well organized?
- Is it logical, simple, or over elaborate?
- Are structural changes made and, if so, do they improve the structure?
- Is the site still under construction and therefore incomplete?
- Are headings descriptive?
- Do they help you find the information easily and quickly?
- If headers and footers are present is their use consistent throughout the site?
- How clearly is the information presented?
- Are navigation tools present such as a table of contents, site map, index?
- Can the site's content be searched and, if so, are instructions provided for effective searching?
- Is it easy to determine where you are in the site at all times?
- Is a link to the home page always present and easily identifiable?
- Is there help available?
- Is a link provided to contact the creator of the site?
- Is a creation date present on every page?
- If the site uses frames do they help or hinder use of the site?
- Is it easy to get lost in the site?
- Is the composition style used consistent?
- Is it overly obvious that the site was created by several different people?
- Are textual components well employed?
- For example, are sentence and paragraph lengths appropriate?
- Is there too much use of bold, italics, capitals?
- Are textual devices consistently applied?
- Are colors used appropriate and easy to view?
- Do colors contrast well?
- Does the background chosen visually "fight with" the main content?
- Are differing span styles kept to a minimum?
- Are there spelling, grammar, or composition errors?
- Is scrolling required to read the whole page, and, if so, are navigation aids such as arrows present to move easily in the text?
- Are graphic images used appropriately?
- Do they enhance the meaning of the text or are they merely decorative?
- Do images take too much time to download?
- Is page composition done skillfully?
- Is it pleasing to the eye?
- Is all content provided as accessible to people with physical impairments as possible?
- Does the site require use of additional software?
- If so are downloading instructions and links provided?
- Can the site be accessed completely on any commonly available browser?
- Are options available for viewing the site such as text only or using it without frames?
- Are there any "dead" links?
- Are links readily identifiable?
- Does the color of links change when visited so you can keep track of pages you've viewed already?
- Do links clearly describe the content of the pages they lead to?
- Are there text links provided for all linked images?
- Is it clear that an image is a link?
- Do links to video or sound files indicate the type of file to which they're linked?
- Do such links indicate the size of the files to be downloaded?
- Are the links chosen relevant and appropriate?
- Are there too many or too few links used?
- Do links to external sites automatically open in a new browser window keeping the existing site on screen?
- Is the site URL (Web address) easily identified?
- Is the site stable over time?
- Is it moved often?
- Are significant changes made to the site without warning or explanation?
- Is contact information for the webmaster readily available?
- Can the site be located easily from its parent site(s) or through use of search engines?
- Are appropriate metatags used to ensure easy retrieval of the site by search engines?
- Does the page download quickly?
- Is the site available consistently?
- Is access to any part of the site restricted in some way, e.g. must you pay to use it or use a password?
- Is the site secure?
- Is the security method described?
- Does the site ensure privacy of use or are users tracked in some way?
- Does the site use a firewall for protection?
- Does the site support different formats such as VRML?
- Is the level of use the site receives indicated?