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Web Page Evaluation Guide and Checklist

Many people believe that they can find anything on the Web and that everything they find is good information. The Web has a lot to offer, but the quality of the information available is very uneven. Unlike most print resources such as books and periodicals that go through a filtering process (e.g. editing, peer review), information on the WWW and the Internet is mostly unfiltered. Almost anyone can publish almost anything online, and since that information is usually not filtered or evaluated in any way, it is necessary for you to develop the skills to evaluate what you find.

This guide presents a series of questions that you should ask yourself in order to determine if the information you have found on the Web is reliable. If you cannot answer most or all of the following questions about the website or web page you are planning to use in your research, beware!

Essential Web page elements:

Most web pages have a similar basic structure. Here is the layout of a typical Web page and an explanation of what you should be able to find in the three main elements the header, body and footer:

 

From Horton and Lynch, Yale C/AIM Style Manual, 1st Ed. 2nd edition available at: http://info.med.yale.edu/caim/manual/contents.html

Page Element

Explanation

Header

bullet usually contains a text title or graphic banner.
 
bullet may also contain links that lead directly to other pages in the site
 
bullet should contain a link to the sponsoring institution.

Body

bullet contains the actual content, including text and links.
 
bullet you can determine the purpose of the information and the intended audience by examining the information in the body.

Footer

bullet should show the date the page was created or last updated.
 
bullet should list the author's name and/or the institution, organization, or company that is sponsoring the site.
 
bullet should contain contact information for the author or sponsoring institution (e.g. e-mail or snail mail address, phone and/or fax numbers).

After identifying all of the above elements, you can then evaluate the document using the following checklist.

Evaluation Criteria

Questions to ask

Authority

Tip: look for a biography, resume or other background information often listed under an "About us" link.

 

Tip: follow the links back to the sites homepage or delete the URL back to the top-level domain.

Authorship:

bullet Who is the author of the document?
 
bullet Are his/her affiliations and qualifications given? If not, how can you find out about this author?
 
bullet Is there contact information for the author (address, phone number, e-mail)?

Publishing Body:

bullet Who is the publisher or sponsoring organization?
 
bullet Is there a link to or contact information for the publisher or sponsor's home page?
Currency

Tip: look for page creation date, revision dates

bullet Is the document dated to indicate when it was created and last revised?
 
bullet Is there a copyright date listed?
 
bullet Are there outdated or dead links in the document?
 
bullet If references are listed, are they current?
Audience & Purpose

Tip: read the "About this site" page to determine this information.

bullet Who is the intended audience, or for what level is the information written?
 
bullet Is the intent of the information clearly stated or implied? If yes, is the information intended to inform, educate,  persuade, sell, advocate or entertain?
Accuracy
bullet Is proper grammar & spelling used?
 
bullet Does it document sources of information used and are there links to any of those sources?
 
bullet Are the included links relevant and appropriate for the information on the page?
 
bullet Is the information verifiable? (Check other sources and compare.)
 
bullet How does it compare with what you already know?
Objectivity

Tip: Be aware of the tone of the writing. Look carefully at strongly worded assertions for supporting documentation.

bullet Is the information biased? Is it designed to sway opinion? From whose perspective is it given?
 
bullet Is the author and/or publisher advertising or trying to sell you something?
 
bullet Is the site sponsored by the government, an educational institution, a company or an organization that may have an agenda? (Hint: look for the domain name at the end of the address, e.g., .edu, .gov, .com, .net, or .org.)

Access & Design

bullet Are there particular software or hardware requirements?
 
bullet Does the Web page take a long time to load?
 
bullet Is the site stable or is it often down or too busy to access?
 
bullet Is it free or are there fees charged?
 
bullet Do you have to register in order to use the site, even if it is free?
 
bullet Is it easy to read & navigate?
 
bullet Is it arranged clearly, logically, and usefully?

Given all the information you determined from above, is the web page or website appropriate for your research project or information requirement?


Additional Resources (see what others have to say about evaluating Internet resources):

Critical Evaluation of Internet Resources (University of Alberta Libraries)
http://guides.library.ualberta.ca/eval_internet

Evaluate Web Pages Tutorial and Exercise (Wolfgram Memorial Library, Widener University)
http://www.widener.edu/about/campus_resources/wolfgram_library/evaluate/default.aspx

Evaluating Health Web Sites (National Network of Libraries of Medicine)
http://nnlm.gov/outreach/consumer/evalsite.html

Evaluating Information Found on the Internet (The Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University)
http://guides.library.jhu.edu/evaluatinginformation

Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask (University of California Berkeley Library)
http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/Evaluate.html

Evaluating Internet Health Information: A Tutorial from the National Library of Medicine
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/webeval/webeval.html

Remember that the Web is not the only resource for your information and research needs.

Use books and newspaper, magazine and journal articles as well.

Need Help? Ask Us!

Page last updated: August, 2012
 

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