Evaluating Websites

Or, How to Surf the Best Waves

It's second nature for most of us to hop on our keyboards and surf the web when we need information. Once we're out there, it's an ocean full of good and bad stuff: pristine waters, whales, sharks, or the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Here are 6 questions to help you evaluate a website once you've landed on it:

  • Who is the publisher and/or sponsor of the website? Where does the funding that supports the website originate? What are the discernable biases of this entity?
  • What is the nature of the site? More specifically, does it serve a commercial, civic, scholarly or other purpose?
  • Who is the intended audience? In other words, what is expected of the individuals who frequent the website?
  • Who authored the information on the site? Is anything attributed to specific individuals? If so, are verifiable credentials cited for the named individual(s)?
  • Is the information accurate? Can it be corroborated by other, reliable sources? How was the information gathered (does it tell you)? Does the information make logical sense in light of known facts? Are references (footnotes, bibliography) provided that can be checked?
  • How current is the information presented? Are dates indicated? Can older information be located in an online archive?

Strategies for answering these 6 questions include:

  • Analyzing a website's URL
  • Scanning the perimeter of the page
  • Identifying key indicators of quality

For an explanation of how to apply these strategies, consult this short tutorial from U.C. Berkeley:
Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply and Questions to Ask

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In This Tutorial: