Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

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

CURRENCY:

  • 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)

Examples:


RELEVANCE:

  • 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?


AUTHORITY:

  • 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?


ACCURACY:

  • 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)


PURPOSE:

  • 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...