Evaluating Information on the World Wide Web

Why do you need to evaluate?

While the Internet contains a wealth of information, it also contains a lot of incorrect information, sometimes purposefully.
  • There is a lack of central authority--essentially, anyone can publish anything they want to publish.
  • Web pages are often biased, contain mistakes and outright lies.
  • It is often difficult to ascertain authorship/sponsorship.
  • Information on web pages can easily be changed, because the authors have constant access to their materials, unlike print publishing.
  • There may not be any permanency--the content, style and location of sites can change.
  • Information may be removed from context--one can skip over introductory pages that may include information on the web site.

Evaluating web pages

Where to find evaluative information

Header

Body Footer Entire web page
 Sample web page

Header
Body
Footer

Evaluative criteria

Purpose and audience

Purpose
  • Is the purpose clearly stated?
    • Is the page designed to inform?
    • Is the page designed to explain?
    • Is the page designed to persuade?
  • Does it meet needs of the audience?
Audience
  • Who are the intended users?
  • At what level is the resource pitched?
  • Does the user group have connectivity?

Content

Uniqueness
  • Are links provided to links not easily available in other sources?
  • Does this site have relative value versus other resources (including print) in the area?
Accuracy
  • Check the information against other sites with similar information.
  • Check the factual information on the site.
    • footnotes
    • references
    • bibliographies
    • active verbs
    • statistics
  • Check for bias.
    • political
    • ideological
Type
  • Does the site contain original information, a sets of links to other resources or both?
  • Is the site comprehensive or simply a "sampler" on the topic?
    • Does it contain only Internet sources or are print resources included as well?
    • Is the criteria for selection included?
  • What is the writing quality of the information contained on the site?
    • Does it seemed to be edited?

Authority

Establish the author's credibility
  • Look for affiliation and credentials.
  • Can he/she or it be contacted for verification?
  • Did the person create the site or do they primarily maintain it?
Establish the site owner's credibility
  • What is the name of the organization?
    • What kind of group are they?
  • Examine their home site if it is linked.
  • What is the organization's reputation?
  • Did the organization create the site or do they primarily maintain it?
  • Establish the relationship between the author and the site's owner/publisher

Currency

Are there pointers to new information?

How often is it updated?

Understand the dates on the sites

  • On what date was it first written?
  • On what date was the information first placed on the web?
  • On what date was the information last revised?
Is there commitment to its ongoing stability and maintenance?

Design

Is information easy to access?
  • Does it take more than three clicks to access the information?
  • Are any necessary special commands clear?
Is it arranged logically?
  • Does the menu design allow the user to easily access the information?
  • Do icons make sense?
Does the site break down the information into acceptable chunks?
  • Does the site run on too long?
  • Should the site be pared down?
Is the site interesting looking?
  • Are there visual effects?
    • Do they enhance the resource?
    • Do they detract from content?
    • Do they substitute for content?
  • Are there audio or video elements?
    • Do they enhance the resource?
    • Do they detract from content?
    • Do they substitute for content?

Accessibility/workability

Is help information available?

Is there a search engine?

  • Are there instructions on its use?
  • Does it have Boolean capabilities?
  • Is there keyword searching in both subject and title fields?
  • Is the search output in easy-to-understand format?
Connectivity?
  • Is it often unavailable?
  • Does it have a quick response time?
  • Does it have dead-end links?
Will it work with older browsers?

Does it use standard multimedia formats?

  • Is it available in other formats?
Does it have a stable URL?

Is the URL stated in the text of the page?

Do essential instructions appear before links and interactive portions?

Is it free or do you have to pay for access?

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