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Evaluating Websites

Because anyone can create content on the web, it is important to know how to evaluate a website for authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency and coverage.  Below are some tips to help you evaluate websites.
1. Authority:

  • Who wrote the page and can you contact him or her? 

  • What credentials are listed for the authors?

  • Are they an expert?

  • Where is the document published? Check URL (.edu, .org, .gov, .mil, .com, etc).

 2. Accuracy:

  • Can the information be verified in other sources?

  • What sort of information is it - facts, opinion, conjecture? 

  • Is there an e-mail or a contact address/phone number for the author?  

3. Objectivity: 

  • What are the author's goals?

  • Is there a slant or bias?  

  • What is the purpose?

  • View any Web page as you would an infomercial.

  • Ask yourself: why was this written and for whom?

 4. Currency:

  • When was it produced?

  • When was it updated and is the information out of date?

  • How up-to-date are the links?  

  • Are the links current or updated regularly?

  • Are there a lot of dead links?

5. Coverage: 

  • Are the links (if any) evaluated and related to the theme?

  • How detailed is the information? 

  • Is it a balance of text and images?

  • Are there links to the 'other side' of the debate?

When to Use Web Resources

Web resources are helpful if:

  • You need up-to-the minute news and information about current events, trends, and controversial topics.  Example: Health care.
  • You need government publications such as reports, statistics or legislation. Example: The latest unemployment figures.

Web resources may not be as helpful because:

  • Anyone can publish anything on the web, website information is frequently inaccurate or biased, and sometimes outdated.
  • Only a limited amount of scholarly information is available on the web for free.

Finding Web Resources

Search engines such as Google make it very easy to find websites. Just type in the term you are looking for and you will be taken to a results page.  Below are some tips to make your web search more productive:

  • Add more words to your search
  • Use quotes to search for an exact word or set of words. Only use this if you're looking for a very precise word or phrase, because otherwise you could be excluding helpful results by mistake.
  • If you are looking for more results from a certain website, include site: in your query. For example, you can find the Library hours on the Santa Monica College website by searching: library hours