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Student Instruction

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How to Evaluate Information: Choose a topic

Use Web Pages Cautiously

Using Web sites as sources for research is always dangerous business. Anyone with the skill or the money to pay someone with the skill can put information on the Web. There is no Internet Watchdog. If you feel strongly about a Web resource and want to include it in your Works Cited, here are some safety tips:

  • Print out the site immediately and put it in a safe place. Web pages disappear with no trace unlike Library resources which are reliable. If that happens your credibility will be called into question by your professor.
  • Record the date you accessed the site and the absolutely correct URL. Try it to be sure it works. Some pages cannot be accessed without going through the site's "front door" or the site may be built with frames. The URL appearing in the Location box of a site which uses frames is almost never correct.
  • Verify the quality of the site. Read over the criteria below. Once you know what to look for, evaluating a site takes only a few of seconds.
  • If any doubt remains, check with your professor.

Evaluating Web Resources

The World Wide Web has a lot to offer, but not all sources are equally valuable or reliable. Here are some points to consider:

Authority

  • Who is the author or producer?
  • What do you know about the author's credentials or level of expertise?
  • Does the website have the name of the individual or organization and contact information clearly visible?

Reliability

  • Does the site have an academic, governmental, or commercial affiliation, or is source a newsgroup? Non-profit sites usually have .edu, .gov, or .org in the domain. These sites provide some of the most valuable information available on the Internet. Be careful of sites ending in .com. They may have useful information but they are generally business oriented advertising.
  • Is the site sponsored or co-sponsored by an individual or group that has created other Web sites?
  • Is any sort of bias evident?

Timeliness

  • When was the Web item produced?
  • Has the site been updated recently to reflect changes in the kind of information you are looking for? (Medical information, for instance, should be updated frequently as opposed to historical information.)
  • How up to date are the links?

Content

  • Is there a statement about the purpose and coverage of the site's information?
  • Is the site a collection of links to other sites or does it actually have files of potentially useful information?
  • How comprehensive and accurate are the information and the links provided?
  • How does the Web site compare to print information resources available on this topic?
  • Who is the audience?

Structure

  • Is the organization of the site logical and easy to use?
  • Does the text follow basic rules of grammar, spelling and literary composition?
  • Is there an element of creativity? Does it add to or detract from the document itself?
  • Is the site available to patrons with special needs -- e.g., large print and graphics options, audio?
  • Are there links to search engines or is a search engine part of the Web site?


Adapted from material prepared by Esther Grassian, Electronic Services Coordinator, UCLA College Library
Copyright (c) 1997
All Rights Reserved
Permission is granted for unlimited non-commercial use of this guide.