Ask these questions to see if you have a quality website:
What kind of site is it? Where does it originate?
- Is it an information page from an interest group or organization? A government publication? An online journal? Conference proceedings? News story? Email discussion? Advertising? Head back to the site's main page, examine the top and bottom of the page, and take a look at the URL for clues about a site's origin.
- Why ask? knowing what the site is intended to do and where it comes from helps you decide if the information in it is useable.
- Examples: Check the domain name (.com, .gov, .edu) to determine the source of the page. Watch out for ~ or % or users, names, people — these can indicate personal pages. Check out the difference in these two websites:
Check the authority of the author(s)/sponsor(s) of the site
- Is the author's name given? Is the author an expert? What are his/her credentials?
- Is there a sponsor for the page? Is the sponsor reputable?
- Is there an email address or other contact info for the author/sponsor?
- (The Webmaster is not the author, just the person responsible for putting the site on the Web.)
- Why ask? anybody can publish anything on the Web. The examples below show an authoritative site and one that's not so authoritative. Note they both have .edu in the URL.
- Which is authoritative?
Check out the accuracy of the information provided
- Where does the information given come from? Is it well documented or the author's opinion? How does the info given compare to other sources & what you already know?
- Do you see research methods or other evidence that support the conclusions? Is there a bibliography/reference list that reflects quality sources? Do you see clues (in facts, grammar, spelling) that make you suspicious?
- Why ask? there are no standards for accuracy on Web pages. Reader beware!
Check for objectivity or bias
- What is the page's purpose — to inform, to persuade, to sell something? What opinions are expressed? Is the page trying to prove something, or is it objective?
- Is enough data provided to support the facts & opinions?
- Is the page a mask for advertising? Treat it like an infomercial on TV.
- Why ask? authors often use the Web to express their beliefs and opinions, or to advocate for a particular point of view. Can you identify possible sources of bias in the sites below?
- Where's the bias?
Investigate the currency of the information provided.
- Is the information in the page current? Does information on this subject change rapidly?
- Is the page dated? When was it last updated? How many dead links are on the page?
- Why ask? Info on the Web moves and changes quickly, and some sites are not updated regularly. Undated information is hard to evaluate.
- Would you rely on this information to make a decision?
Consider design issues as a factor in evaluating a page's usefulness
Web design is about more than being pretty. A web page needs to engage the reader, be easy to navigate, and allow interactivity. Does the page take a long time to load? Is it often "down? Is the page well organized? Could you get to the info you needed quickly and easily? Are the graphics clear and helpful, or are they distracting?
Why ask? if a site is poorly organized and hard to use, it will be difficult to get the info you need. If you are creating your own web pages, you may wish to take these factors into consideration. The UNE Libraries have some books on Web design that could help you. Please check our online catalog at http://lilac.une.edu.
For more information: If you have doubts about the information you find, contact the page's author/sponsor, ask a librarian or your instructor for help.