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Library Research Methods: How to Evaluate Websites

Using Websites

There are many websites that are appropriate for academic work such as sites from academic institutions, government organizations, and professional associations.

Use search engines and subject directories to locate materials on the Web.  

Information on the Internet varies in its reliability; before using information from a website, review these Website Evaluation Guidelines.

Criteria for Evaluating Websites

Use these Guidelines to Determine Credibility and Reliability
 

CRITERIA:

  • Authority – WHO?
  • Objectivity & Purpose – WHY?
  • Accuracy of content – WHAT?
  • Currency – WHEN?
  • Coverage & Design – HOW?

 

Questions to Ask: 

For example, apply the following questions to these two sites and compare:  www.fda.gov and www.fda.org

WHO?

  • Who is the author and what are their qualifications, expertise or credentials?
  • Is the site from a reputable organization or institution?
  • Is there contact information provided?
  • What can the URL and domain tell you? For example: .com, .org, .edu,  .gov.

WHY?

  • What is the purpose of the Web site?
  • Is there a mission statement or "About Us" page? 
  • Is the site balanced and objective? Is there a particular point of view or bias?
  • Is there advertising and what kind? Is the site trying to sell you something?

WHAT?

  • Does the site provide accurate factual information that can be verified?
  • Are the sources cited? Is there a reference list or bibliography?
  • Could the page or site be ironic, like a satire or a spoof?

WHEN?

  • When was the site created and last updated?
  • Are the links current and working?

HOW?

  • Is the site easy to read, use and navigate?
  • Is there a site map or a “Help” page? Is there a search function for the site?

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