MCC Libraries Evaluating Web-Sites By Sal Anchondo, Lori Annesi, Pam Czaja and Alice Harrington
The Internet has revolutionized the way college students conductresearch. Unlike your predecessors, you have quick and easyaccess to millions of valuable resources from around the globe.Is all Internet information valuable? Unlike the book and magazinepublication processes, there are no editors or fact checkers toprevent an incorrect web-site from being created. Not all of theinformation you will find on the web will be useful or accurate.This online tutorial will help you analyze web-sites for their valuemore accurately.
By the end of this tutorial you will be able to… Differentiate between these types of web-site addresses: .com .edu .gov .org Apply the following criteria in order to evaluate web-sites: Authority Accuracy Objectivity Currency Coverage
Don’t always judge a web-site by its address …• An individual or group can create web pages and together they are recognized as a web-site.• In order for it to be accessible to others through the Internet, it needs to be stored on a server (host computer).• The organization that runs or maintains the host computer determines the type or web address the web-site will eventually have.
Don’t always judge a web-site by its address … Examples of some types of host organizations: .com: sponsored by a corporation .edu: sponsored by a college or university .gov: sponsored by a governmental agency (State or Federal) .org: sponsored by a not-for-profit organization The address of a web-site is ultimately not an indicator of the value and accuracy of the information on it. You as a researcher have the responsibility to determine if a web-site’s content is useful for your research project.
Applying criteria to evaluate web-sites …To remember evaluation criteria, memorize the following sentence: All “A”s on Current Classes Authority Accuracy Objectivity Currency Coverage
Applying criteria to evaluate web-sites … Authority – Are the people responsible for the web-site’s content regarded as experts or authorities on that topic? Accuracy – Does the web-site contain misinformation? Objectivity – Does the web-site present an extreme one-sided or balanced perspective? Currency – Is the information on the web-site up-to-date? Coverage – How much information does the web-site provide? No criteria by itself is indicative of a web-site’s value to your needs. You should look at the criteria as a whole.
AuthorityYou need to take into account whether the web-site author hascredentials in the subject being presented.Questions regarding authority: Who wrote this? Who is the sponsor? An e-mail contact is not enough. Most reliable web-sites have an “about us” link. Click on it and read it. Is the person or organization well-regarded by others? Do their credentials allow them to speak with authority?
Authority example:This is the website of the World HealthOrganization (WHO). If you click on“About WHO” at the very bottom of thepage, you will discover that thisorganization was created in 1948 by theUnited Nations and its objective is the“attainment by all peoples of the highestpossible level of health.”WHO is well regarded by others andyou will see many references to it if youare researching a topic such asHIV/AIDS on a global scale.
Accuracy• Authority and accuracy go hand in hand. The more authoritative the creator of a web-site is, the less likely you will find errors and inaccurate information.• The responsibility of accuracy falls solely on the shoulders of the web creator.• If the web-site is full of errors, there is a high probability that the information provided might also be inaccurate.
Questions regarding accuracy: Is the web-site free from spelling and grammatical errors? Is the information that you find on a web-site consistent with what you see in other sources (i.e. books, magazines, journals, other websites, etc.)?
Objectivity • Remember every issue has more than one side. • Objectivity is a criteria that is difficult to measure if you haven’t viewed or investigated other sources or viewpoints. • You need to gain perspective on the issue at hand before you can accurately judge objectivity.
Questions regarding objectivity: Is the web-site consistent with the information that you’ve been gathering? Does it radically represent one side of the issue or the other? Are opinion and editorial sections clearly labeled?
Objectivity example:Public Agenda bills itself as a “non-partisan research organizationhelping Americans explore and understand critical issues since 1975”.
CurrencyYou can look at currency in two ways when evaluating a web-site.Currency equates to up-to-date information. It also relates to how oftenthe web-site is checked for accuracy.Questions regarding currency: How current is the information on the web-site? When was the web-site last updated? Are the links still active?
Coverage How much information is provided compared to other sources (i.e. newspaper and magazine articles) used on the same topic? Is there an indication that the page has been completed and is still not under construction?
In conclusion …When you apply these five evaluation criteria, you will discover theyoverlap. Using them in your analysis will ultimately help make up yourmind to use a web-site. On occasion, you will encounter sites that aredifficult to analyze. In those instances, do not hesitate to contact alibrarian or your instructor.More on web-site evaluation … Evaluating Web Pages – University of California: Berkeley Library Checklist for Evaluating Web Resources – University of Southern Maine Libraries Evaluating Web Pages – Duke University Libraries Evaluating Websites - Purdue University Libraries Go to Library Research Guides Updated 8/2012