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Evaluating Your Sources: Web Sites

How do I know it's a website?

If it's on the web, and it doesn't fit any of the other categories listed on this guide, you should probably evaluate it as a standard website.

Why Evaluate?

The Internet is not one big electronic library.

No one moderates the content of the Internet as a whole.

Anyone can publish a website. All you need is access to a server.

Evaluating Websites


  • Is there a "last updated" date on the page or a mention of how frequently the site is updated?
  • Is there a copyright date?
  • Does the site's content warrant frequent updates?
  • Visit the site after an event that would affect the page's currency (ie. release of new information that should be included)



  • Is the substance of the source about the topic you're researching, or is it tangential (or the wrong thing altogether)?
  • Is it written for a university audience?

For example, which of these three websites would be the most relevant for a presentation about dialect/accents in Birmingham, AL?


  • Look for the names of the author, webmaster, and hosting organization. What are their qualifications?
  • Go up to the main or home page of the site to find out more about the web host. (Start at the end of the URL and delete to the first slash - / -, or look for a link to "main" or "home").
  • Look at the domain (.edu=education, .gov=government, .com=business, .org=nonprofit). This part of the URL may be able to tell you something about the site's authority.

   For example: Will the real Census Bureau please stand up?

   And which of these two sites carries more authority on Poe? How can you tell?


  • Is the site free of spelling and grammatical errors?
  • Is documentation provided (a bibliography or reference list)?
  • Can the information be verified using another source?

   For example, which of these pages of quotations would you imagine is more accurate? (Hint: Look at the author's name)


  • Is the purpose to inform you about something, or to persuade you of something?
  • Is a bias evident?
  • Who is responsible for the site? Do they have a vested interest in your thinking a certain way?
  • Are they citing external sources, or just citing themselves? (Do some of the page links point to other sites, or only other pages on the same site?_
  • Does the page contain ads? If so, what are they for?
  • Is the language of the site calm or inflammatory?

   A closer look: What clues tell you that one of these websites might not be objective about issues surrounding tobacco use?

Above all, be cautious. Looks can be deceiving...