Research‎ > ‎

Website Credibility

Source of the Information

Evaluating Website Credibility

 Questions to Ask when Evaluating website credibility:

·       Where did this information come from?

·       Who put it there?

Where to Look:

·       On a web page, look near the top of the page.

·       Check the title, the section headings and the opening paragraphs to see if some person or organization is named as the person(s) responsible for the content of the web pages. Also look near the bottom of the page for this information. (Keep in mind that the webmaster or person who designed the web page is not necessarily the one responsible for the content of the page.)

·       You can sometimes learn something about the source of a web page by examining the page's URL. The URL often indicates what type of organization and what country a web page comes from.

·       If you can't find any information about the author(s) on the page you're looking at, try erasing the last part of the URL for that page in your web browser's location box. Delete from the very end of the URL backwards to the first slash mark("/"), then press the RETURN or ENTER key on your keyboard. If you still don't see any information about the author(s), back up one more directory or slash mark. Keep going until you come to a page which identifies the author(s) of these pages.


Authority of the Source

Questions to Ask:

·       What qualifications does this person or organization have to talk on this topic?

·       Does the author have a university degree in the discipline? Or is s/he an amateur or a hobbyist or merely someone with an opinion to air?

·       If an organization is responsible for the pages, is the organization widely recognized as a source of scholarly and reliable information? (For example, the American Cancer Society for information on cancer-related topics)

·       What other information can you find about the author or organization responsible for the content of this web page? 

Where to Look:

·       On a web page, look near the top and the bottom of the page.

·       Is there a link to more information about the person or organization?

·       For organizations, there's often a link called "About the ______ Association" or "About Us" or something similar which leads to a page explaining what the organization's mission is, when and how it was founded and so forth. Read it for clues.

·       For a single person/author, there might be information about the person's educational background or his/her research or other qualifications for speaking on this topic. There might be a link to his/her faculty or professional web pages.

·       Look for links to other articles and publications by the person or organization.

·       Look for an address or a phone number by which you could contact the author(s) if you wanted to.

·       If you can't find any information about the author(s) on the page you're looking at, try erasing the last part of the URL for that page in your web browser's location box as described above. Keep going until you come to a page which has more information about the person or organization responsible for the pages.

·       Remember that a URL which has a ~ in it is almost always someone's personal home page, as opposed to an organization's official page.

·       If you can't find any information about the author(s) anywhere on their web pages, try searching for the person or organization's name using one of the Internet search engines to see if you can find web pages about them elsewhere.

·       Check some library catalogs and magazine or newspaper databases to see if the person or organization has published books or articles in the field or if articles have been written about him/her .

 

If you can find no information at all about the web page's author(s), be very wary. If you can't verify that the information is authoritative, don't use it in a class paper or project.


Purpose of the Document

Questions to Ask:

·       Does the author claim this page to be fact or is s/he trying to persuade you of something?

·       Is s/he trying to sell you a product discussed on the page?

·       To whom is the author of this page talking? To scholars and experts? To students? To anyone who will listen?

Where to Look:

·       If the author or organization has provided an "About" or "About the ________" page, you can probably determine something about the web page's purpose by reading about the mission of the organization.

Objectivity of the Author(s)

Questions to Ask:

·       Does the author or the organization s/he represents have an obvious bias concerning the topic?

·       Does the author or the organization represent a particular point of view? (The Catholic Church, the National Organization for Women, the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the Republican or Democratic Party, etc.) If you don't know the answer to this question, be sure to read the "About the _________ Association" page.

·       Do they present facts and arguments for both sides of a controversial issue or only their own point of view?

·       Does the page include advertising? If so, can you tell clearly which parts are advertisement and which parts are informational content? Does the page remind you of a television "infomercial," i.e. it looks like an informational article but is actually an advertisement?

Where to Look:

·       Does the page use inflammatory language, images or graphic styles (for example, huge red letters or lots of boldface type) to try and persuade you of the author's point of view?

·       Examine the URL to see where the web page comes from. Is it a commercial site (.com) or. (.org) An educational institution (.edu)? Or a (.gov) site. Anyone can pay for a .com or .org site, whereas .edu and .gov are heavily regulated sites.

·       Think again about the person or organization's mission or charge as you read about it in the "About the ______ Association" link or the "About this web site" link.

·       Try some of the same approaches you used to determine the authority of the information source, for example look for the name of the author(s) using one of the web search engines to see if you can find other information about them. Use the online databases to search for articles about the person or organization. Is the organization an advocacy group, i.e. they advocate for a particular cause or point of view?

Currency of the Information

Questions to Ask:

·       Can you tell when the web page was originally created? When it was last updated?

·       Is this a topic on which it's important that you have up-to-date information (science, medicine, news, etc.) or one where it is not as important that information be recent (history, literature, etc.)?

Where to Look:

·       Look near the top and the bottom of the page to see if any publication date, copyright date or "date last modified" is indicated.

·       Look for other indications that the page is kept current. Is there a "What's New" section?

·       If statistical data or charts are included, be especially careful to notice what dates are represented there and when the data was collected or published.


Completeness of the Information

Questions to Ask:

·       Are you viewing an entire text or a selection from a fuller document?

·       If what you are viewing is a selection from another document, is there a reference or a link to the original document in case you want more detail?

Where to Look:

·       Look near the beginning and the end of the document you're viewing to see if a citation is given to a fuller document.

·       Check the links within the text of the document itself to see if any lead you to a more complete version of the document.


Relevance of the Document to Your Information Need

Questions to Ask:

Does the information you found really answer the questions you had or does it simply contain some of the same words and phrases as your topic?


Works Cited:

Jennings, Mary. Sno-Isle Library System Information. 2013. MS. Sno-Isle Libraries, Camano Island.


Back to Research Page

Home

Comments