Skip to main content

How to Evaluate Websites Using CABLE: Home

Quick Links

Use these links for quick access to information.

Other Websites on Evaluating Internet Sources

Questions to Ask When Evaluating Websites


The Internet is a powerful tool to use for academic and general interest information.  However, not all websites are reliable sources to use.  Almost anyone can write and have a website on the internet.  It is, therefore, very important to evaluate each website before you consider using the information found on it.  Below are five areas commonly used to evaluate websites.   They are:  Authority, Accuracy, Objectivity, Currency, and Coverage.

Authority:  The Author, or Who is providing the information?

:       Is it clear who or what organization wrote the information on this page?

:       Can you verify the individual or organization giving the information by a physical mail address or phone number? (note: sometimes an email address is not enough)

:       Is the author acceptable? What makes an unacceptable author?

:       Can you find the author's credentials and/or background information?

:       What makes the author an authority or expert on the subject?   Is this someone’s personal page full of his or her opinions?

:       Is there a sponsor who is different from the author? Who holds the copyright to the site?

:       Look at the URL (address). What is the domain of the site? This gives you a clue to the type information you will probably find.

       Examples:

·         .edu – educational facilities

·         .com – commercial/company sites

·         .org – nonprofit organization sites

·         .gov – government sites

:       Be careful of personal pages.  Read the URL carefully.  Personal pages usually have a tilde(~) followed by the author’s name( even some .edu sites.)  Some personal pages also have the words “users” or “members” (i.e. aol.com/members/brown.)  Still others are from common commercial Internet Service Providers who may give free space to anyone (geocities.com)

It is possible to accept a web page or site as useful without being able to determine the author but only if everything else about the site seems to be reliable.  Usually this information is found on the first (home) page toward the bottom or under a link of “About Us”.

Accuracy:  Content, or Is the information correct?

:       Are the sources for any factual information listed so that they can be verified? Some sites will even list bibliographies or works cited information at the end or show links to the information's source.

:       Are there detectable errors in the information?

:       Are there misspelled words, typographical errors or grammatical errors?

The problem with determining accuracy is you probably don’t know a whole lot about your topic to begin with; so how do you know if the information this web source is providing is accurate or not?  The answer lies in using more trusted sources before you check the web. That way, you have something to compare the information to before deciding whether or not to use it.

Objectivity:  Is the purpose advocacy or sales? Is the information unbiased?

:       What is the purpose of the web site: to sell? To persuade? To inform? To entertain?

:       Does the organization or person confess its bias?

:       Who is the intended audience? Adults or children? Laypeople or professionals?

:       Is the site trying to sway opinion? Advocating a particular position?

:       Do the authors present more than one point of view?

The important thing about bias is recognizing it and deciding whether the bias of the author is going to interfere with the accuracy of the information.

Currency:  When was the information put on the web? When was it last updated?

:       Is currency important for this topic?

:       When was it mounted on the web?

:       When was it last revised or updated?

If you can’t find any copyright or update dates, look at any indications in the body of your web source to see if there are indications of when it was loaded, if the sources used only go up to a certain year, it may have been placed on the web about that time.

Coverage:  Scope, or How much and how well is the information covered?

:       Is it clear what information the site intends to deliver? Does it deliver as promised?

:       Is something significant left out or is something unique included in its topic analysis?

:       Is there any advertising? if so, is it clearly differentiated from the factual content?

:       Does the site indicate that it is complete or under construction?

:       Are there links to other relevant sites? Does it appear the sites that are linked to were selected for their quality or just to make the page larger?

Coverage can be a great indicator that bias is involved.  If the site focuses on just certain sides of a question, this incomplete coverage can be an indicator that the author is biased.

Subject Guide

Reference Desk's picture
Reference Desk
Contact:
510 Building, Main Campus
843-574-6096
Website
Subjects:Reference

Examples of websites that seem "for real" but aren't