Web Evaluation

Why do I need to evaluate web sites?

Anyone can create a web page. Anyone can publish information online. When you use a book or another traditional library resource, a librarian has gone through an evaluation process for you. When YOU find a resource online, you must evaluate it before you use it to make sure that it meets the same standards that you would expect for a book, article, or other information resource.

How do I start?

Remember the 5 W's from your high school newspaper days? You can use them here to investigate a web site that you find online. Here's how:  

 

Consider:

 

Confirm:

W
H
O

» Credentials...
  Who is the AUTHOR?
  • Is the page signed?
  • Does the page include a biography?
  What makes the author an expert on this topic?
  • What is the author's education and/or experience?
  • Was the author recommended from a source that you can trust?
» Contact...
  Can you contact the author to find out more about him/her/the topic?
  • Does the page include an e-mail address, mailing address and/or phone number?
» Identity...
  Who is behind the information?
  • Is the author a person?
  • Is this information being sponsored or sold?
» Level...
  Who is the AUDIENCE?
  • Who is the site written for?
    Professional? ... or Pre-K?

W
H
A
T

» Accuracy...
  What KIND of information?

Everyone has a point of view, but is someone's opinion, hidden agenda or bias getting in the way of the truth?
  • Get the facts:
    • Verify all information that you find!
    • Look for a bibliography or footnotes
    • Check for information about the author and/or sponsoring organization
    • Confirm questionable information in a trusted resource (when in doubt - ask a librarian!)

W
H
E
N

» Currency...
  When was the site created?
  • Look for:
    Copyright Date, Creation Date, Updates, Revision
  • Does the information expire?
  • Is your topic current (changing all of the time) or historical?
    Even outlooks on historical events can change!

W
H
E
R
E

» Location
  Where is the site located?

Is this information being used to sell a product or an idea? Sometimes the best way to tell is to check who is hosting the content...
  • Analyze the address:
    • Dissect the URL = Uniform Resource Locator
    • Identify the domain
      Truncate back to the domain to find more answers:
      • .com - commercial
      • .edu - higher education
      • .k12 - k-12 education
      • .gov - government
      • .mil - military
      • .net - network
      • .org - organization (commercial or educational)
    • Look for personal page clues:
      • ~
      • %
      • "users"
      • "people"
      • "pubweb"
      • "members"
» References...
  Where does the site link TO?
  • Investigate what links are recommended:
    • Visit a "links" or "resources" page
    • Follow links within the content
  Where does the site link FROM? Who is recommending this website?
  • Use a search engine to do a "Link Analysis":
    Type ":link" and the URL of the web site in the search box of a search engine

W
H
Y

» Relevance and Coverage...
  Why should you use this site?
  • Improves or expands upon information in print and/or subscription databases
  • Answers your research questions
» Purpose...
  Why did the author choose to publish this information online?
  • To advocate ideas or to persuade
    (ex. Greenpeace)
  • To advertise or sell
    (ex. Ebay)
  • To inform or educate
    (ex. National Geographic)
  • To entertain
    (ex. Comedy Central)

H
O
W

» Appearance
  How does the website look?
  • Accessibility
  • Organization
  • Grammar and Spelling
  • Advertisements
  • Dead links
NEED MORE HELP?

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For further assistance, contact:
Maura Keating, Reference Librarian
mkeating@bryant.edu
(401) 232-6299 or IM a Librarian

Subject Specialities:
History - Global Studies - Latin American Studies - Literature - Mathematics - Web Evaluation