Evaluating Internet Resources

Why do I need to evaluate Internet resources? Isn't all information found on a computer good information?

NO! The information found on the Internet and the World Wide Web is, for the most part, not filtered for reliable content or quality. The main reasons for this are the ease at which individuals can place information on the Internet, particularly the World Wide Web, and the sheer volume of information. Anyone can put information onto the Internet!

Most problems arise when the Internet is used for research. It is sometimes difficult to verify the source and accuracy of the information. In contrast, the information found within a library goes through a selection process that includes reading reviews, purchasing from reliable publishers, filling faculty requests, and drawing from hundreds of years of collective library experience.

With the Internet the researcher is on his/her own, making web evaluation a necessity. Below you will find below some of the methods to evaluate information on the Internet that librarians and serious researchers employ to find high quality information that is the basis of the scholarly research process.

Know Your Author!

An author's affiliation is an important clue to the reliability of the information.

  • Look for any biographical statement about the author.
  • Look for an e-mail address or site address to determine affiliation.

Questions to ask about the author

  • Is the author even listed?
  • Is the author the original creator of the information?
  • Did the author list his/her occupation, educational background, expertise?
  • Do you think this person is qualified to present this information?
  • Did the author cite his/her sources?

Clues about the host site

Extensions (domains) on addresses possibly indicating reliability

  • a .edu extension indicates a college or university
  • a .org extension indicates an organization
  • a .gov extension indicates a governmental entity
  • a .com indicates a commercial enterprise

Note: these extensions are used in the U. S. only. Foreign sites, and some in the U.S., use a geographical extension or domain.

These "extension" rules should only be applied in a general way. Some commercial sites contain high quality information but many are advertising a product or service and, therefore, are not objective sources. A person who works for the commercial enterprise may be reliable, although a person who is merely "renting" space on their web server may not be. Government sites usually have reliable information but remember that government also deal in propaganda and partisan views. Academic sites will most likely contain quality information suitable for research, but you must still check the author's background. An organization may be a legal entity that has an interest in providing reliable information. However, the information found on an organization's homepage may also be highly biased and one-sided.

Is the Homepage still active?

  • Is there a date of creation for the homepage?
  • Is the information current?
  • When was the page last revised?

Don't think for a minute that because you found information on the Internet that it is current and up to date. Many pages are created on a whim and then quickly forgotten. In many cases homepages are done by volunteers and are not always updated on a regular basis.

Questions to ask about homepage content

  • Is the information accurate?
  • Is there a strong bias?
  • Is the subject treatment sufficient?
  • Are any links on the page relevant to the subject?

Questions to ask about homepage style and design

  • Is the homepage easy to navigate?
  • Is the homepage logically organized?
  • Is the writing clear?
  • Are there numerous spelling or grammatical errors?
  • Are there errors in the use of HTML tags?
  • Do the links work?

A well designed homepage indicates that the author took it seriously and applied care in its creation. If the author didn't bother using a spell-checker or dictionary to correct simple spelling errors, do you think he/she would even bother to check the facts contained in the homepage? Not too likely!

If you do use an Internet site as a research source, be sure to cite it correctly!

If you have doubts about information found at a particular Internet site, ask your teacher or visit your library to verify the facts.

Author: Robert L. Battenfeld, M.L.S., M.S. - Southampton College Library, Reference Librarian


South High Library Homepage Citing Internet Resources

Please report any broken links or errors on this page to Mr. Reader. Thank you!

Last Revision: November 10, 2005


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