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Evaluating Websites and Information: Evaluating Websites

General information on website evaluation, the filter bubble, and fake news.

Evaluating Websites

Internet & Online Resources: Evaluating Websites

Internet Research

When searching the Internet for information, you must be critical of the websites and the information that you come across. If you are not sure if a website or source is legitimate you can check with your professor, a librarian, or a trusted colleague to check if it is legitimate or not. Below is some criteria for evaluating websites that can be very helpful to you if you do question a website.

Evaluation Criteria for Web Resources...The "CRAP" Test

  • CURRENCY
    • Dates are not always included on webpages.
    • If the date is included, it may have various meanings:
      • The date the information was first written.
      • The date the information was placed on the Internet.
      • The date the website was last revised.
         
  • RELIABILITY
    • Anyone can publish on the Internet.
    • Many Internet resources are not verified by editors and/or fact checkers.
    • Web standards to ensure accuracy have yet to be developed.
    • Ask yourself:
      • Can you verify the information from another source?
      • Are any references given?

  • AUTHORITY
    • It is often difficult to determine authorship of Internet resources.
    • Ask yourself:
      • If author's name is listed, what qualifies the author as an expert?
      • If the site has been provided by an organization, are they reliable?
      • Does the URL or domain tell you anything about the resource? (For example: .com, .gov, .edu, etc...)

  • PURPOSE
    • Goals/aims of persons or groups presenting material are often not clearly stated.
    • The Internet often functions as a 'virtual soap box'.
    • Ask yourself:
      • Are they trying to sell you something? Persuade you? Educate or inform you?
      • What is the intended audience?
      • Are there advertisements on the website? Can you draw any conclusions about the site based on the advertisers?
      • Does the site appear to be affiliated with an organization with a particular point of view?

OTHER FACTORS
 

Question Man Image

  • Is the webpage well-designed? Does it make good use of graphics?
  • Does the page load efficiently?
  • Are all the links active?

 

"Free" Resources on the Internet

  • ADVERTISEMENTS

Owners of websites will often sell advertisements on their websites.
Things to consider with these sites are:

  • Is the website providing valuable content or is it simply providing more space to put ads?
  • Who are the advertisements for?
  • How are the ads related to the content?
  • USING/SELLING USER INFORMATION

Websites will often use your data to provide targeted advertising content or will sell it to advertisers. This is especially common in many web services such as email, social networks, and sites that require you to register.

  • Does what the site provider know about you affect the content you are shown?
  • Are your search results being tailored to your interests/beliefs?
  • CORPORATE SPONSORSHIPS/DONATIONS

Similar to product placement or sponsorship in traditional media or among athletes etc..., this is especially common with blogs or product review sites.
Things to consider with these sites are:

  • Is the website providing valuable content or is it simply providing an opportunity to talk about a product or company?
  • Is the sponsorship or donation affecting the objectivity of the content?