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