Evaluating websites

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  • 1. Evaluating WebsitesAuthor • Who is the author? • Who is the sponsoring organization? • What are the credentials of the author or organization? Why are they qualified to provide this information?Look for an About Us or Contact Us link for this informationContent and Source • Does the content contain references and citations to original material? • What types of websites does this page link to? Are they credible? • Can the information be verified by other (credible) sources?Purpose • What is the stated and unstated purpose of this information? • Are products for sale on the same website? • Is there a political bias? • Is the information factual and unbiased? • Does the site sponsor indicate a conflict of interest (example: they sell a related product) • Are there advertisements selling products related to the information.Bias does not always mean the information is ‘bad’, but bias must always be a consideration. It isbest to use objective sources whenever possible.Currency of Information • When was the website created? • When was the webpage last updated? • Currency depends on the field of study (ex: medical information should not be more than a few years old, or it is considered out of date)Website DomainUse .gov or .edu domains unless the website content is clearly credible. • .gov – information from government sources. Considered credible for most academic uses. • .edu – information from educational institutions. Considered credible for most academic uses. However, be aware that some .edu domains allow personal websites under their website address. Therefore, be sure you are citing a .edu webpage that contains official information, rather than from a personal account. • .org – information from non-profit organizations. Consider the non-profit organization and evaluate whether they are a credible source of information. • .com – be wary. Most .com websites are not considered credible for academic use, though there are some exceptions after extensive evaluation. For example, a research report on software might have sources from Microsoft.com (after considerations for bias).Google Searching Hint: Search on Google. Then choose “Advanced Search” and limit to .gov or.edu domains on the Advanced Search screen. Created by Beth M. Transue, MLS. Messiah College Murray Library. btransue@messiah.edu
  • 2. What about Wikipedia?Wikipedia is actually a pretty good place to start your research, particularly if you don’t knowmuch about the topic yet. But for college-level academic research, you should never finish (i.e.-cite) with information directly from Wikipedia.Ways to Use Wikipedia for Academic Research 1. Gain a better understanding about a topic before you delve into more complex academic sources. This sometimes helps you better understand what you are reading within a more advanced and academic resource. 2. Find relevant keywords to use when searching academic sources and databases. Wikipedia can help you learn the “vocabulary” of an academic discipline, including important keywords and alternate keywords to use when searching other academic resources such as journal databases. 3. References. Often Wikipedia articles contain references to academic books and journal articles. While the information in the Wikipedia article is not acceptable to use directly, you can often link to the original source such as the book or journal article. This original source may be acceptable for academic research. a. For book citations in the Wikipedia References list, search the library catalog to see if the book is in the library collection. b. For journal article citations in the Wikipedia References list, search the Periodicals List on the library home page to see if we have the journal in one of our online databases, or in print. c. Remember that if we don’t have the book or journal article in our collection, you can request it through Interlibrary Loan (ILLIAD). 4. External Links. Follow the external links to find the original information. Just remember to evaluate the resource using the Evaluating Websites criteria.Don’t quote from here…..….. instead, scroll to the end of the Wikipedia article and find the source from here! Created by Beth M. Transue, MLS. Messiah College Murray Library. btransue@messiah.edu