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Evaluating Web Resources

Web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer simply retrieve and display Web sites, and search engines simply list Web sites containing terms that you designate. They do not evaluate the accuracy or value of the Web sites, and there are sites that contain inaccurate, out-of-date, and even false information. You are responsible for determining the usefulness of a Web site. The following guidelines will help you evaluate Web resources.

Types of Web Resources | Criteria for Evaluating Web Resources

 

Types of Web Resources

There are many different types of information available on the Web, but most Web pages can be categorized into one (or more) of five basic types:

  • business and marketing
  • news and current events
  • informational
  • advocacy
  • personal
BUSINESS AND MARKETING

Business or marketing pages are usually published by companies or other commercial enterprises.

Their primary purpose is to promote the company or to sell products. Business and marketing pages often include a mixture of information, entertainment and advertisements.

Examples include:

For U.S. based sites, the URL or Web address usually ends in .com
For international-based sites, the URL or Web address often ends in .co.** (** is the two letter country extension).

NEWS AND CURRENT EVENTS

News and current events sites provide extremely up-to-date information, and include news centers, newspapers and other periodicals.

Some news and current events sites may only provide a limited amount of free information–a few days worth to a few weeks worth– and/or may require registration.

Examples include:

INFORMATIONAL

Informational pages provide factual information on a particular topic.

Informational pages are often provided by government (.gov) or educational institutions (.edu) and may include reference materials, research reports, databases, calendars of events, statistics, etc.

Examples include:

ADVOCACY

Advocacy pages are usually published by an organization with the purpose of influencing public opinion.

The URL address of an advocacy Web page frequently ends in .org (organization).

Examples include:

PERSONAL

Personal pages are published by individuals who may or may not be part of a larger group or organization.

Personal Web pages may include almost any type of information including biographical data, information on work, hobbies, etc.

Examples include individual or family home pages, individual faculty or students at a university, and member pages from an Internet Service Provider.

For U.S. based sites, the URL often includes a tilde (~).

Criteria for Evaluating Web Resources

Many of the same criteria for judging library databases and resources can also be used for Web sites. Criteria to keep in mind when viewing Web sites

  • authority
  • accuracy
  • objectivity and bias
  • currency
  • coverage
AUTHORITY

Who is the site's author?

  • Authors and creators of Web sites should be clearly stated within the sites.
  • Means should be included for contacting authors and/or the Webmaster.

Is the author qualified in the subject area the Web site deals with?

  • Authors credentials and/or biographical information or affiliations should be included.
  • Qualifications should be verifiable.

Who is sponsoring/hosting the site?

  • Any commercial or organizational affiliations should also be included.
  • Consider the Web address:
    • The domain (.com, .edu, .org, .gov, etc.)
    • A tilde (~) in the Web address often indicates a personal Web page.
    • Popular Internet services providers (AOL, Earthlink, MSN) and free Web hosting sites (Angelfire, Tripod, GeoCities) often host personal Web pages.
ACCURACY

What are the sources of information for the site?

  • Information should be supported by a bibliography or list of references (resources).
  • Facts are verifiable and are in line with other sources–the site does not provide information that is totally at odds with all other sources.
  • Information from sources is interpreted and used correctly.
  • Individual pages in the site are signed and attributed.

Are the sources of information reputable?

  • The sources cited should be from well-known sources or authorities.
  • The sources cited should be current.
  • The sources cited include external sites–not just pages within the same Web site–written by qualified authors.
OBJECTIVITY AND BIAS

Is the author being biased or objective?

  • The bias–attitudes about a topic–of an author should be taken into account.
    • The author may present information in a fair, balanced and moderate manner or may be overly emotional or extreme in his or her views.
  • Consider the impact of any stated and/or unstated affiliations (companies, groups, organizations, etc.) of the author.
    • The organization may represent certain goals and/or values.

What is the purpose of the site?

  • Consider the types of Web pages mentioned earlier in this section.
  • Determine whether the page is trying to entertain, inform, persuade or advertise.
    • Advertising should be clearly separated from the information on the page.
CURRENCY

Is there a date of last update or revision?

  • Determine if the revision date indicates a content revision or a minor change to the page (typographical error, link change, etc.).

Is the information up-to-date?

  • Consider how old the information is–is the content current?
  • Determine if it is important that the content be current. Generally, subjects in the social sciences and humanities have a longer shelf life than subjects in science, technology, and business.
  • Numerous broken links may indicate an out-of-date page.
COVERAGE

Is the site relevant to your needs?

  • Determine the scope of the site and what it focuses on.
  • Consider if the information meets your needs–is it relevant?


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