Skip to main content

Beginning Your Research

Tips & Tricks using library and other online resources

Evaluating Websites

Evaluation Questions to Ask

1. Authority

Is the author of the information named?
What are the author's qualifications and expertise?
Is there information about the author and/or a way to contact him or her?
Are there links to organization(s) supplying information to the website?
If there is neither author nor sponsor, is there a way to determine its origin?

Check for a header or footer showing affiliation.

Check the URL.

Check at the domain. .edu, .com, .org, .net
Check for an "About Us" link.


Why is this important?

  • Anyone can publish anything on the web.
  • Qualifications bolster confidence in the information.

2. Accuracy

Is there a way to verify that the information is reliable and error-free?
Is there an editor or someone who verifies/checks the information?
Are sources of information cited and accurate?

Why is this important?

  • Being able to go to cited sources lends credibility to the accuracy of the information.
  • Even if there are no cited references, being able to verify information from a outside sources (journal articles, etc.) lends credibility to the information.
  • Remember! Unlike many traditional print resources, web resources rarely have editors, fact-checkers, peer reviewers.

3. Objectivity

Does the information show a minimum of bias?
Is the page designed to sway opinion?
Is the position clearly stated ?
Who sponsors the website?
Is the sponsor of the page reputable? How reputable?

Is there any advertising on the page, and does it related to the information provided?

Why is this important?

  • Frequently the goals of the sponsors/authors are not clearly stated. 
  • Often the Web serves as a virtual soapbox expressing opinions not based in verifiable information.
  • The information proved by a commercial site can be "tailored" to highlight the product being sold in a favorable way, possibly leaving out important information. 
  • Sponsorship can be an indication of bias or limited viewpoint.

4. Currency

Is the page dated?
If so, when was the last update?
How current are the links? Have some expired or moved?

Why is this important?

  • When dates are not provided you cannot tell how "stale" the information is and whether newer information exists that's not covered on the website.
  • Bad links are an indication of a site that might be abandoned or neglected.
  • Even if a date is provided, it may have various meanings. For example,
    • It may indicate when the material was first written
    • It may indicate when the material was first placed on the Web
    • It may indicate when the material was last revised.