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Evaluating Websites & Internet Sources: Criteria for Website Evaluation

Use this guide to help find the best web sites and learn how to find out which sites might not be for you.

Criteria for evaluating information

Consider these concepts as you navigate information for your classes. This criteria can also be applied to print sources and media. 

ACCURACY
How reliable is the information?  Remember, almost anyone can publish on the web.  As opposed to scholarly or academic sources in print or online, many web sites are not verified.  There are no web standards to ensure accuracy.

AUTHORITY
What are the author’s qualifications for writing on this subject?  Is their expertise well established? How reputable is the publisher or sponsoring organization?  It is often difficult to determine the authorship and qualifications. (Try Googling or checking Wikipedia for the name, organization)

OBJECTIVITY/BIAS
I
s there bias?  Are the goals or aims of the individual or group clearly stated or transparent?  Remember that many people consider the web as a place to state their opinions. Bias will often exist, but it helps to be clear about it before you use the information.

CURRENCY
Is the content up-to-date?  Often dates are omitted or may mean the date that the information was originally written, the date it was placed on the web, or the date it was last revised.

COVERAGE
What topics are covered and to what depth?  Coverage may differ from print resources.

AFFILIATION
Is there a corporate entity (i.e. company, government, organization, university) that supports this site?  Is there a link to the homepage of the organization?  Is there contact information such as an email link and a snail mail address?  How might this affiliation affect objectivity?

AUDIENCE
Can you idtentify what audience the material is intended for ?  Is it for students in elementary school?  Middle school?  High school?  Is it for adults? Other experts or professionals? How difficult is the material? Is the language or data used complex and specific, or simplified?

STABILITY OF INFORMATION
It’s here today but will it be here tomorrow?  Can you cite it with some assurance that it will be found again?

PRIVILEGE
Were there limitations on who has access to the research or information? Or who is able to publish the work? Think about if there is anyone else who might contribute a different perspective to the information. Seek out those voices might be missing, left-out, or not prioritized in the work.
 

CONTEXT

Has the information been removed or extracted from an original source? Sometimes it can be hard to tell if the information is accurate or reliable if it has been taken out of it's original context.

DOMAINS/URLs

Domain name types and checking out the URL or the DOI for the page or site can provide some help. Some of the basics are: 

  • .com – commercial business (the most common TLD)
  • org – organizations (typically, nonprofit)
  • gov – government agencies.
  • edu – educational institutions.
  • net – network organizations.
  • mil – military.

Web site evaluation video

From Hartness Library CC/ Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed)

CRAP Checklist for Evaluating Sources

  • You can use this list as a guide for evaluating your sources, whether they are websites or from SVC resources.
  • You don't need to be able to answer all the questions but use the list as a general evaluating tool.
CURRENCY
  • How recent is the information, does it matter to your topic?
  • Has the resource been consistently updated/revised?
  • Are links current and working?
RELEVANCE
  • Is the information really relevant to your topic?
  • Does the creator provide references or sources for data or ideas?
  • Are there errors?
AUTHORITY
  • Who is the creator, author or sponsor?
  • What credentials does the author or organization have?
  • Does their experience or education indicate that they could be considered "experts"?
  • Is information about the creator easily found?
  • Is information provided about funding sources or data gathering for the work?
PURPOSE / POINT OF VIEW
  • What is the the purpose of the site? Is it obvious what it's for?
  • Are they trying to sell you something or promote an idea?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is there a strong bias, an aggressive use of language, or a balanced tone?
  • Are there lots of pop-ups and irrelevant ads?

 

SIFT method for evaluating information in a digital world

Check Your Feed with SIFT (the four moves - Stop, Investigate, Find, Trace)

STOP: 

  • Take a breath, check your reaction, pause, re-evaluate.
  • Ask yourself if you are certain the information is true.
  • Don't re-post, use, or share until you verify. 

undefinedINVESTIGATE: 

  • Look at the source. Who created the information?
  • Look into who is behind the post and think about why they might post that information.
  • Try looking in Wikipedia or on a fact checking site for the name, company, organization, story, or publisher. Or Google it!
  • Learn about the expertise, education, and/or the agenda of the producer of the information.

two hands holding a shield with a check mark in it FIND BETTER COVERAGE:

  • If checking the source brings you to a questionable place, try looking in some other sources for similar information.
  • Look beyond the first few results.
  • Check in at least 2 different places.
  • If the information shows up in several reliable places, it is likely to be accurate.

undefinedTRACE CLAIMS, QUOTES & MEDIA TO THE ORIGINAL CONTENT & CONTEXT:

  • Trace the content back to the original source.
  • Check the full context of the information -- was something left out or not included? 
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