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Research Process: Evaluating Websites

Guidelines for a successful research experience. Adapted from the Copley Library Guide, http://cbury.libguides.com/research.

Overview

Always evaluate websites for information quality and reliability because anyone with a bit of knowledge about computers and the Internet can put information on the World Wide Web. 

Academic research is different from personal research because academic research requires current, correct, and well-documented information written by institutions/people who are authorities on their subjects.   

Sites should be unbiased UNLESS biased information is useful for a particular assignment.

The World Wide Web is a place of business, and sites that want to sell products or services have a different purpose from sites that exist to educate.

Links

Finding Credible Websites Powerpoint

Annenberg Classroom : Advocacy Sites by Subject

Credible Websites?

Evaluating Web Sites Tutorial

Evaluating Websites - (Gulf Coast State College)

ABCs of Evaluating Websites

Use these ABCs as a guide to critically evaluate information on the Web.

  1. Authority 
    Who or what organization is publishing the content?  Do they have the knowledge and expertise to publish information about this topic? This information is often found in the About Us or Contact section of a site.  
     
  2. Bias/Purpose 
    Is this a commercial site that is trying to sell a service or a product or a site that exists primarily to educate? Does the publishing group and/or author have a bias?   Are there multiple points-of-view analyzed and expressed?  
     
  3. Content 
    Does the content fit the research question/assignment? Is the information correct? Read background information about your topic from a reputable source such as a textbook or database first.  
     
  4. Currency 
    Is there a publication or update date attached to the article or site? Look at the end of an entry or the bottom of a page.

Spotlight on Bias

The New Oxford American Dictionary describes bias as:

“prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.” 

Sometimes it is easy to determine if a particular website is biased especially around a controversial issue, other times it can be extremely difficult to determine a site’s bias.  It is especially difficult to determine bias when an author does not state their credentials when posting an article on a website or a blog or when reviewing a site that uses a name that doesn’t give away its purpose.  

Here are some tips for determining bias:

  1. Go to the About Us or Contact Us section of the website to find out who publishes the site and other information such as where the organization is located and its purpose or mission. 
  2. Go to the Resources or Links pages to see what other sites the site recommends viewing or what organizations the site promotes.
  3. Google the author or organization to find out if the organization has been in the news.
  4. Ask a librarian or teacher to see if they know about a particular site or organization.