- 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...