EDIT MAIN
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Evaluating Websites

Ask yourself the Five W's when evaluating a web site: what, who, where, when, and why.

WHAT:

  • How did you get to this list of results? Did you use precise keywords, correct spelling, and limiters such as quotes around a phrase or name, Boolean Logic (AND, OR, NOT), or the Advanced Search feature?
  • Quickly glancing at the abstracts of the sites, do they look like they provide the information you need? If not, think of ways to change your search terms and phrases.

WHO:

  • Look at the URL-Uniform Resource Locator or Web address of a site. Is this somebody's personal page? Look for a "~" or "%" or the words "users" or "members."
  • Is the author or sponsor of the site prominent on the page or are there links to "About Us, " "Philosophy," "Background," etc.?
  • What are their credentials, if any, such as degrees and professional positions?

WHERE:

  • What is the domain of the site .edu, .gov, .org, .com?
  • Does the sponsor or publisher take responsibility for the information or is there a disclaimer on the page?
  • What sites does this site link to?
  • What sites link to the site? Use the Google.com link feature. For example, in the search window at Google type: link: www.rosenet.org/library
    This will return a list of sites that link to Madison Public Library's site.

WHEN:

  • Is there a date when the site was created and/or updated?
  • Even if the date is current, does the information appear as if it has been updated?
  • Are links current?

WHY:

  • Is the information biased? Is the information very persuasive without presenting an opposing point of view? Is there a reason the author might have a particular agenda? Are you sure it is not a spoof or parody?
  • Does this information fit with what you already know?
  • Is the site good for some information but not all? For example, the site might be a seventh-grader's research project so you would not want to quote it, however it might have an excellent list of sources that you can consult.
  • Is the site documented with a list of sources such as a bibliography, suggestions for further reading, endnotes, or footnotes?

After reviewing all of the questions above and before using a site for an assignment ask yourself:

  • Is this is the best source of information for my assignment?
  • Does this site add anything new to my research?
  • Would print sources or the library's databases have more reliable information?