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Evaluating Web Resources

It's important to evaluate the reliability and scholarship of information you find in both print and electronic formats.
Use these guidelines when evaluating web resources for authenticity:


Authorship
If the author is not identified be wary of unnamed webmasters. It should be evident who created the content of the page. If the author is identified, what are his/her credentials? Does he/she have expertise in this field? You might want to do an Internet search on the author's name to verify his/her identity. Is contact information provided?

Publishing body or web server
This can help you determine the origin of the document, for example whether it is produced by a federal or local agency, a nonprofit organization or a commercial web site. A web site on a university or institution's server is more likely to be a reliable objective source than one on a commercial site.

Sponsorship
Some sites are officially approved by the parent organization to which they're linked. Others can be on a parent site but not officially sponsored by the organization. A personal home page on a university's server does not automatically confer reliability.

Timeliness
Be aware of when the web page was created and how recently it's been updated. Is the information current? Outdated information and broken links indicate that the page is not being maintained.

Scope
Is the range of information presented comprehensive? Does it organize or present material in a creative, useful way or just rehash information found easily elsewhere?

Accuracy and objectivity
Can the facts presented on a web site be substantiated elsewhere? Be aware of data that can't be confirmed or that presents a biased view of information. Web sites often have a particular agenda or viewpoint they are trying to portray, which may affect the way information is presented.

Footnotes and bibliographies
References and links to other sources can add to a document's credibility, depth of scholarship, and authority.

Outside reviewers
Has the site been rated by one of the Internet rating groups? Sites that have been awarded good ratings are always quick to display them in an effort to legitimize their site. Be aware, however, that Internet ratings groups have differing criteria or standards of quality.

Design
Is the site well-organized and easy to navigate? Look for an overall design that makes it easy to find or search for the information you need.