Websites can be created by anyone and may or may not be edited. There are great websites that have high quality information, and there are websites that are meant to be opinions or to present someone's interest. Because there is such a variety of quality and types of websites, evaluating all websites you use is important.
Websites Can Be Good Sources:
- Some sites are from authoritative sources, for example: The Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General
- Some sites are comprehensive, for example: cancer.gov
- Some sites are very current, for example: The New York Times, National Public Radio, and FindLaw: Legal News and Commentary
- Some sites provide reports and analysis, for example: Zogby Analytics and Five Thirty Eight
- Some sites clearly acknowledge their biases, for example: NARAL Pro-Choice America and Operation Save America
- Some sites cover many issues from a specific perspective and encourage action, for example: Takepart.com
Websites Can Be Questionable Sources:
- Some sites are of low quality, for example: Presidents Graves Home Page
- Some sites do not acknowledge their commercial interests, for example: Melatonin.com and AIM: Alcohol in Moderation
- Some sites do not acknowledge their allegiances, for example: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research , The Foundation for Research on Economics & the Environment, The Heritage Foundation, The Pacific Legal Foundation, RU486Facts.org, and The RU486 Files
- Some sites are of questionable scholarship, for example: Did Six Million Really Die from the Institute for Historical Review and Martin Luther King Jr. - A True Historical Examination from Stormfront
- Some sites are simply hoaxes, for example: RYT Hospital-Dwayne Medical Center, Dog Island, and Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity
- Some sites are blogs or blog-like and meant to be expressive outlets for perspectives, opinions, and ideas, for example: Black Girl Dangerous, Adios Barbie
Some commonly accepted criteria used to evaluate sources include:
- Accuracy: "does the site misstate or misrepresent facts? does the site contain errors? Can you find information to support their information on other reputable sites?
- Authority: who created the site and what are their affiliations and credentials? Are they experts in the area covered by the site?
- Bias: does the site offer a point of view or opinion without attempting to acknowledge other views?
- Coverage: how much information is provided? Is there adequate information for claims made?
- Currency: when was the site last updated? how new is the information? Are you looking at a dated document or article?
Evaluate sites guided by the criteria above. Do not use sites that fail your evaluation. There are plenty of other good sites you can use.
Domains do not guarantee the quality or integrity of a site. For example, the personal page of a professor or college student could be in the .edu domain, but that relationship does not validate what the person says. Sometimes, such sites have a tilde ~ in their address. These web site domains are restricted; only certain organizations can use them: .aero, .coop, .edu, .gov, .int, .mil, & .museum These web site domains are unrestricted; anyone can use them: .com, .info, .name, .net, .org, & .pro
- Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask (UC Berkeley)
- Evaluating Internet Sources (Purdue)
- Five criteria for evaluating Web pages (Cornell)
- Evaluating Internet Sources (Johns Hopkins)
- Evaluating Websites Video (Common Craft)