Evaluating Web Sites: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and How to Tell the Difference

Authority

  • Is the page signed, i.e. does it give an author's name?
  • Are the author's credentials given?
  • Who is the sponsoring agency?
            URL can provide clues: .edu, .gov, .org

Reasons for consideration:

  • Anyone can publish anything on the Internet.
  • Internet bypasses traditional publishing steps of fact checking, peer review, editor's revisions, etc.
  • The Web has no standards for information that it carries.

Questionable site:

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080502081339AAW1Tbs
No source is given for the information, and the author does not appear to be an authority on the subject.

Good site:

http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerBasics/what-is-cancer
This information comes directly from the American Cancer Society, a reputable source.

 

Objectivity

  • What is its purpose (to inform, persuade, sell, entertain?)
  • Any bias or hidden agenda?
  • Clues to objectivity: authority, presence of ads

Reasons for consideration:

  • Internet is often used as a soapbox.
  • Internet tends to blur distinctions between advertising, opinion, and facts.

Questionable site:

http://hutchison.senate.gov
The information is probably true but is likely to be biased since it comes from the subject's own personal page.

Good site:

http://www.vote-smart.org/bio.php?can_id=S0852103
Information is provided by a non-partisan organization.

 

Content

  • Accurate (authoritative source; references cited)
  • Appropriate to audience
  • Has the needed depth and breadth
  • Currency (Does the page have a stated date?)
               Note:  There is a difference between Date created v. date posted v. date updated

Reasons for consideration:

  • Remember that anyone can publish anything on the Internet.
  • Standard print indicators of content - like table of contents, preface, publication dates - are often absent on the Internet, so one must examine content directly.

Questionable site:

http://www.indo.com/travel_agents/harapan/rate.html
Dates for hotel rates are outdated.

Good site:

http://www.travelocity.com
Covers many hotels in many cities. Copyright dates at bottom of page indicate ongoing currency.

 

Ease of Use

  • Logical organization
  • Intuitive operation
  • Do you know where you are or do you get lost in the links?
  • User aids: link back to the home page
                       Site map
                       Search function for the site

Reasons for consideration:

  • Authors do not always take the time to make their site user-friendly.
  • Web authors often emphasize what is "cool" over what is useful.
  • If a site is hard to use, it will not be used.

Questionable site:

http://www2.tntech.edu/history/earlymod.html
Page is simply a list of links with no apparent organization; many links only lead to other links instead of to actual information.

Good site:

http://www.state.gov/
Information is organized into self-explanatory categories; page offers a site organization map, an index, and a search function for further assistance.

 

Stability

  • Is the site hosted by a stable institution?
  • Is older information archived or does it disappear?
  • Is it regularly maintained?
                  No broken links
                  Regularly updated
  • Include email address of Webmaster?

Reasons for consideration:

  • Web publishing is quick. It is easier to put something on the Web than to maintain it.
  • Nothing is permanent on the Internet.

Questionable site:

http://www.mrfreefree.com/freebies/free_books_literature.html
Page is an advertising site dedicated more to online shopping than to providing stable links. Books displayed change according to the whim of advertisers.

Good site:

The On-Line Books Page
Collection is sponsored by a major university dedicated to creating and maintaining the service.


Last updated: Oct. 15, 2012 1:49 PM



Thanks to a donation from an alumnus, the Special Collections at ACU's Center for Restoration Studies now houses two Ethiopian religious texts dating back to the turn of the 19th century.
 

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