To properly evaluate websites you need to apply the following 4 criteria:
Currency, Reliability, Authority, Purpose
Be prepared to hunt through the website to find the necessary information.
When was the information published? Has it been revised or updated?
- Check the date published, last updated, or the latest revision information. Look for this information near the title of the article, at the bottom of the page or on the Home Page. It may not always be present.
- Does the information look current? A site can be revised and yet still contain outdated information.
- Try the links. Are they still functional or do they lead to sites that are out of date, have moved or have been taken down?
Is the information accurate? Where does it come from?
- Have you seen this information in a different source during your research? Does the text agree in general with these other sources?
- Is there a list of references or a bibliography? Does the site state where it obtained its statistics, charts and other factual information?
- Does the site provide you with relevant external links?
- Are there many spelling or grammar errors in the text? Too many errors could lead you to doubt the accuracy of the information.
Who is the author and is the author qualified to write on the topic?
- Are the author’s credentials and background information provided? Is the contact information available? Look for links to About this Site, Home Page, Author Biography, or Contact Us.
- Try a Web search on the author or the organization.
- Determine if the site is supported by a university, an organization or a commercial body. Look for the organization’s Mission Page.
- Be prepared to hunt for the answers. Look at both the top and the bottom of the web page as well as the sides.
- Still can’t find anything? Try truncating back the URL or web address. To truncate go to the address box at the top of your browser, delete all characters after the last slash ( / ) and press Enter to see if you can discover more information about the site. Continue for each slash ( / ) in the address.
Why was this information published? Is it fact, opinion or propaganda?
- The purpose of the site should be clear. Take a close look at the organization that publishes it. Can you discover its mission statement? Look for About Us or Mission pages. By knowing who put up the information you can determine if the content supports the purpose of the site.
- Who is the site written for? Is the information directed towards the general public, students, or scholars?
- Does the site show only one side of a topic? Is the information presented with a possible bias? What type of sites do the external links connect to? Are these external sites reliable?
- Does the site have ads and are they related to the content of the page?
Download a summary of the Four Criteria for Evaluating Sources.