How To Evaluate Web Resources

The World Wide Web provides an abundance of information, but many sources are not reliable. Before using a Web site as a reference, remember the A-B-C’s: authority, bias and content.

Authority

What group is sponsoring the site or who is the author (not Webmaster) of the site?
  • Look around the page for a link like “About Us” or “Who We Are.”
  • If this information is not available, use the Internet address to look through higher level pages on the Web site.
  • Are the author’s credentials missing? Anonymous pages or pages created by persons with no credentials in the field are not suitable for college-level research.
What is the expertise of the author?
What is the purpose of the site? Does the sponsoring organization have its own agenda or viewpoint? Is its main purpose to sell a product or service?
What is the nature of the site? The URL extension (Internet address) tells something about the information source:

.edu indicates educational or research sites
.gov or .us indicates government sites
.mil indicates military sites
.com indicates commercial products or commercially sponsored sites
.org indicates a nonprofit organization
~ followed by a name often indicates a personal home page
Does the author provide contact information in case users have questions or suggestions

Bias/Content:

Is the information reliable and error free? Verify information against known reputable sources such as refereed journals, books from reputable publishers, respected Web sites, and recognized experts in the field. (Use Ask-a-Librarian to identify other sources.)

What is the author's point of view? Is there evidence of bias? Is the page designed to sway opinion? Would you expect opposing viewpoints on drilling for oil on federal lands from greenpeace.org and exxon.com?

Is there advertising on the page? What ideas might the advertisers be interested in promoting?

Does the text follow the basic rules of grammar, spelling, and composition? Many errors are an indication content may also be inaccurate.

Does the site provide links to other relevant and reliable Internet resources?

Was the site recommended by your instructor or library? It is the responsibility of faculty and libraries to identify sites which provide accurate and reliable information.

Currency:

Has the site been updated recently and is a date available on the page?

What does the date mean? When the material was first written, when it was first placed on the Web, or when it was last revised?

Is your research better served by older materials or new? In either case, current updates on a Web site indicate it is being actively maintained.

Are the links reliable? Dead-end links or messages that a link has moved indicate the site may not be current.