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Evaluating Internet Sources: Evaluating Web Sources

Evaluating Sources

Techniques for Evaluation

These techniques have been adapted from UC Berkeley's Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask.  Visit their page for more questions to ask and techniques to use.

Examine the URL

Is the domain extension appropriate for the information you are seeking.

Common Domains: 
   .gov for Government
   .mil for Military
   .edu for Education
   .org for Organization
   .com for Commercial  (note that many sites, just like this library guide have a .com domain, even though they are not a "commercial" site) 
  

Look at the first part of the url - can you determine the publishing source for this information? Have you heard of this source before? Is it an appropriate source for your research?   

Example:  http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/index.html  -- the publisher or this web page is the New York Times

Who is Responsible for this Web Page?

Is there any information (other than email) about the author/organization/institution provided? Can you determine the author's credentials?

Is it from a known or established source?  Is it a rant? An extreme view?  A self-proclaimed expert?  Is it supporting a particular cause?

Does the site have a link that says "About Us" or "Welcome" or anything that might give you information about the author or publisher?  Does it explain the site's purpose? 

If not, try to Truncate the URL -- In the top location box, delete characters of the URL stopping just before each /.  Press enter to see if you can find out more about the source, keep truncating one slash at a time until you reach the first single / -- which is the domain portion of the url giving the page's server or publisher.

How current is this information?

Scroll to the bottom of the page and see if there is a "last update" date or a copyright.  If the last update is more than a couple years old, could be the author is no longer updating or maintaining the page.

Does the site look dated?

Don't use statistics that are not dated or cited.

Look for Indicators of Quality, Accuracy, and Credibility

Are sources documented?  Can you tell where the author got his/her information through footnotes or links?

Are there links to other web pages?  Are those links working? Are they from known or reliable sources of information? Do they present objective viewpoints on the topic?  Do the links indicate a bias?