Evaluating Reputable Sources/Websites
Consider the following ideas when deciding whether to use a resource:
1.) Authority: Who wrote this? Know the author.
- Who created this information and why?
- What knowledge or skills do they have in the area?
- Is he or she stating fact or opinion?
- What else has this author written?
- Does the author acknowledge other viewpoints and theories?
2.) Objectivity: Is the information biased? Think about perspective.
- Is the information objective or subjective?
- Is it full of fact or opinion?
- How does the sponsorship impact the perspective of the information?
- Are a balance of perspectives represented?
- Could the information be meant as humorous, a parody, or satire?
3.) Authenticity: Is the information authentic? Know the source.
- Where does the information originate?
- Has the information been reviewed by others to ensure accuracy?
- Are original sources clear and documented? Are the sources used cited?
4.) Reliability: Is this information accurate? Consider the origin of the information.
- Are the sources truth worthy? How do you know?
- Who is sponsoring this publication?
- Does the information come from a school, business, or company site?
- What’s the purpose of the information resource: to inform, instruct, persuade, sell? Does this matter?
5.) Timeliness: Is the information current? Consider the currency and timeliness of the information.
- Does the page provide information about timeliness such as specific dates of information?
- How current are the sources or links?
6.) Relevance: Is the information helpful? Think about whether you need this information.
- Does the information contain the breadth and depth needed?
- Is the information written in a form that is useable (i.e. reading level, technical level)?
- Do the facts contribute something new or add to your knowledge of the subject?
- Will this information be useful to your project?
7.) Efficiency: Is this information worth the effort?
- Is the information presented in a way that is easy to use (i.e., fonts, graphics, headings)?
- Is the information quick to access?
Some tools/suggestions to help you determine whether a site is valid/reputable:
As you explore information on the web, keep in mind that there are many different types of information ranging from research data to opinions. Start with an overview of the contents of the site. Can you determine the purpose and audience of the page? Does the site focus on information, news, advocacy or sales?
1.) Search for Clues
Start by examining the page itself. Look at the web address (URL). What kind of domain (.edu, .gov, .org, .net, .com) is it? This doesn’t always help, but it may provide an indication of the sponsor. Is it a government site, school resource, museum, commercial or private web project? Try to determine who published the page. Can you find a name attached to the page? Sometimes you can answer these questions by reading the creation information at the bottom of the main page. Look for a name, organization, or email address. If you can’t find the answer there, try to locate a section like “about the website” or “contact us”. The author of the page and the webmaster may or may not be the same person. Another hint about the quality of the website is the copyright date. When was the page originally posted? When was the last time the page was updated? This information is generally at the bottom of each page.
Does the site use banner sponsors? What do they sell? Is it a well-known organization? Consider whether the site’s sponsors could impact the perspective to the website. In most cases, a company wants the information at their site to reflect positively on them = bias!
3.) Ask Questions
If you still can’t determine the quality of the information, consider emailing the webmaster and asking about the site’s content. Some webmasters post anything that’s given to them, while others are experts in that field.
4.) Track the Site
Another way to learn more about a website is to see who links to them/who they link to. Use a search engine to look for the “URL” or author of the website. Does it appear on a “favorites” list? If so, whose list and is it credible? You can track forward as well. Look at the links that are used by the web developer of your site. Do they go to good or poor quality sites?
It is also important to cross-check information. There should be other resources confirming each piece of questionable data. Cross-checking can be done in different ways. One example could be to place a star by each item that has been doubled checked in a graphic organizer format. Consider using a variety of information formats, such as encyclopedia, magazine articles, videos, experts, and web pages to cross check.
Reference (and check out for more info):