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Evaluating Information on the Internet

Learn how to evaluate whether a website and its contents are reliable and discover tools and tricks to get better results from your online searches.

Tips for Evaluating Websites

Because anyone can add information to the web, be skeptical when evaluating any information source. There is no universal symbol to designate a quality web page, but here are things you can look for to help you determine if a web page is appropriate or not:

Credibility

  • Ask: Who is the Author? Who is the publisher? If you can't tell or if there isn't any clear information, be suspicious!
  • Look for: For web sites, you often have to check the home page, "About Us" page, or Contact Us page to find who is behind a source.

Point of View or Bias

There's nothing wrong with a source having a point of view, but you need to be aware of it so you can investigate the other sides. Example: Information on gun control from the National Rifle Association.

  • Ask: Does the author or publisher of this site have an agenda? Are they selling a product or advocating a position?
  • Look for: the site's domain name (.gov. .edu, .org), statements of purpose ("About Us" "Philosophy"), and overall tone.

Timeliness

Think about your topic and how important recent information is to it. For an art history project , it probably isn't very important. For a paper on genetic engineering, it is very important.

  • Ask: When was this site last updated? How important is current information to your topic?
  • Look for: Dates (publication date & last update), active links to related content

Accuracy

This is the ultimate point. But you may not know enough about a topic to judge. Look for solid evidence, such as research studies and statistics. Is there a bibliography or reference to other sources the author used? These indicate the information is based on research rather than just opinion.

  • Ask: Does the author have the credentials to be authoritative on this subject? Are references provided? Are these verifiable?
  • Look for: Author's credentials, Credited and dated statistics or charts, Verifiable bibliography or references