When considering whether the information on a website is a good source for your purposes, there are five basic criteria:
Try to answer these questions to help you evaluate the website:
Accuracy - Is the information accurate? (Note that the other criteria also have to do with accuracy!)
- Does the information build on/cite other high-quality information sources?
- Can you verify the information in another, unrelated source?
- Does the information "ring true?" How does the information compare with what you already know?
Authority - Do the authors of the information know what they're talking about?
- Is the author identified?
- Does the author have expertise in the area?
- Is the author's contact information given so you can ask questions?
- Publisher's qualifications - Does a well-known organization sponsor the website?
- Consider the site's domain.
- .com is for commercial websites; what they are trying to sell may bias the information.
- .gov is US government websites.
- .edu is education websites - these can be high quality sites, but beware of any that are students posting projects rather than departments or scholars in the field.
- .org is non-profit organizations, but they may have a bias depending on the goal of the organization.
Timeliness - Consider your topic and how quickly the information might get out of date. Is the information recent enough to be accurate?
- When was the information produced?
- Are the sources cited current?
- When was the cite last updated?
- Are the links current? (If there are dead links, that is a sign that the website has been neglected.)
Objectivity - Is the information biased?
- Is the website intended to persuade/sell or inform? Is it a mask for advertising?
- What opinions are expressed by the author?
- Is the language objective or inflamatory?
- Who sponsors the information?
Usefulness - Does the site fit your purposes?
- Is the information on topic?
- Is the depth of information appropriately detailed? (Is it too elementary, too advanced, or just right?)
- Do you have the software/hardware to access the information?
- Is there a price you are willing to pay? (Some sites require money or the sharing of personal information.)
- Is the site organized in a useful way so you can access the information you need?