UMass Lowell Logo

CW II Gueroguieva

UML's Tutorials on Evaluating Sources

Other tutorials on Evaluating Websites

Questions to Ask When Evaluating Websites

Evaluation Questions to Ask:

1. Authority

Is the author of the information shown?
What are the author's qualifications and expertise?
Who sponsors the website?
Is the sponsor of the page reputable? How reputable?
Is there a link to information about the author and/or the sponsor and/or a way to contact them?
Are there links to any other organization(s) that supplies information to the website?
If the page includes neither a signature nor indicates a sponsor, is there a way to determine its origin?


Check for a header or footer showing affiliation.

Check the URL. http://www.fbi.gov

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

Why this is important:

  • Anyone can publish anything on the web.
  • Qualifications can bolster confidence in the information presented.
  • Authorship and/or Sponsorship can be an indication of bias or limited viewpoint.

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 this is important:

  • Information about the expertise of the author can lend credibility to the accuracy of the information.
  • Being able to go to cited sources also 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 accuracy of 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 ?
Is there any advertising on the page, and does it related to the information provided?

Why this is 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, possibley leaving out important information. 

4. Currency

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

Why this is important:

  • When publication or revision dates are not provided you cannot tell how "stale" the information is and whether newer information exists that is 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. (This may be the best indicator of currency.)