Evaluate Information on the Web

Unlike the library's collection of online databases (for example, Academic Search Premier or JSTOR), information retrieved using search engines (such as Google or Yahoo) has not been evaluated and/or organized by librarians, or humans for that matter. If you are using a Web page as a possible research citation, apply the following criteria to determine the quality of your source.

Accuracy

Anyone can publish information on the Web. There are no standards to ensure accuracy. Unlike print resources, web resources are rarely peer-reviewed or edited.

Things to consider:

  • Is the information reliable?
  • Are facts or statistics backed up by citations or a bibliography?
  • Is there someone, besides the author, who verifies the information?

Authority

It is often difficult to determine who the author or sponsor of a Web page is, much less their credentials or qualifications. Authorship and/or subject expertise may affect the impact, significance, and/or quality of the information

What to look for:

  • Is the author identified? If so, are his/her credentials or qualifications listed?
  • Does the web page have a sponsor? If so, is the sponsor reputable?
  • Does the web page provide information about the author or the sponsor?
  • Does the URL contain an .edu or .gov domain (e.g. http://www.centre.edu)?

Objectivity

It is important to determine the goals of the web page. Check to see if these are clearly stated in a mission statement, or information about the page. Is the page intended to inform, explain, or persuade?

Questions to ask yourself/What to look for:

  • Is the information biased or is the author presenting more than one side of the argument?
  • Is the page designed to sway opinion?
  • Is the purpose of the page clearly identified?
  • Is there a sponsor or advertiser on the page? If so, does this color the information?

Currency

The effectiveness of a web page can sometimes be lessened if it becomes out-of-date. If the web page relies on information such as hyperlinks, directory, or timely information, etc., it should be updated and revised as the information changes.

What to look for:

  • Are dates provided?
    • When the information was written? If so, is the information on the page outdated?
    • When the page was last modified or updated?
  • Are the links (if any) up-to-date?

Coverage

Web resources are often presented in a different context than print resources, making it difficult to determine extent of coverage.

Things to consider:

  • What topics are covered?
  • How in-depth does the information go?
  • Does the page offer information not found elsewhere?

Last updated June 28, 2007