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Evaluating Websites

How to judge if you are looking at reliable information on the Internet.

Web Evaluation

ANYONE can publish on the Web! What you see are a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Evaluate each website critically before using it for your research.

Use these 5 criteria to evaluate the information you find on a website.
Authority [concept map]
  • Who is the author(s)?
  • Is the author an expert on the subject?
  • Can you verify the author's credentials?
  • Is there a way to contact the author(s)?
Unlike traditional information sources where editors or fact checkers are involved, there are no rules on the web.
  • Are there obvious errors in grammar or spelling?
  • Are there references provided for facts presented?
  • Can you verify the facts presented using other sources?
The purpose of a website is usually not clearly stated. 
Numerous websites are sponsored by those who want to sway opinion, advertise, or just have fun.
  • Is the information biased or appear to be promoting a specific political, religious, ideololgical viewpoint?
  • Are both sides of a controversial issue presented?
Often no dates are provided, or if they are it is not always clear if they refer to when the site was first published or last revised.
  • Is there a date confirming when the information was published?
  • When was the website last revised or updated?
  • Do the links work?
Coverage of a subject can vary depending on the author's intent.  It may be brief or more in depth with links to references.  It may actually be a hoax or a parody. 
  • Is the information in depth or general?
  • Is the purpose to inform or is it just a joke?
Now, step  back and ask yourself...
What is the intent of the website? 
Why has this information been put on the web?
Does it all add up?
Is it appropriate for your purpose? Why or why not?
  • Accuracy. If your page lists the author and institution that published the page and provides a way of contacting him/her, and ...
  • Authority. If your page lists the author credentials and its domain is preferred (.edu, .gov, .org, or .net), and ...
  • Objectivity. If your page provides accurate information with limited advertising and it is objective in presenting the information, and ...
  • Currency. If your page is current and updated regularly (as stated on the page) and the links (if any) are also up-to-date, and...
  • Coverage. If you can view the information properly--not limited to fees, browser technology, or software requirements, then ...

You may have a higher quality Web page that could be of value to your research!

Excerpted from: Kapoun, Jim. "Teaching undergrads Web evaluation: a guide for library instruction." College & Research Libraries News. 59.7 (1998): 522-3.

Take a look at the address or URL.  Do you know what the domain names are for websites?  Here are the ones you will see most often.

 .com = commercial

   .org = organization

.net = network

  • Internet service provider
  • Originally for network providers but could be commercial or individual sites now

 .gov = government


  edu = education

  • College or university site
  • Could be serious research or a student site
  • Mainly reliable/factual



Whois - A tool to check if a domain name is in use or available for sale, registrant of a site and some background information of the domain.

Quackwatch - Health information

Snopes - References for urban legends, myths, and hoaxes.

West Hempstead Public Library - Fact checking of political information. 

PolitifactAn independent fact-checking journalism website aimed at bringing you the truth in politics. 

Emergent -  A real-time rumor tracker aims to develop best practices for debunking misinformation.