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Evaluating Internet Sources

 

The quality of information located on the Internet varies widely. Before you use a web site as a resource for a research paper, ask yourself the following questions about it. The more yes answers you can give, the more credible the web site is likely to be.

 

"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts." Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Authority

1. Can you identify the author?

2. Are his or her qualifications or affiliations given? Can you verify them?

3. Is there a publisher or sponsoring organization indicated (not just a personal homepage)?

4. Is there a link to the sponsor's home page?

5. Is a real time workplace address or telephone number (e-mail address only can be suspect) given for the author or the publisher?

 

Accuracy

1. Is the document free of spelling and grammatical errors?

2. Is there any documentation for the information (bibliography)?

3. Are there any links to the documentation sources?

4. Is the information verifiable? (compare it to other sources)

Objectivity

1. Can you identify the purpose of the site--advocacy, business/marketing, information/reference, news, or personal soapbox?

2. Can you identify the goals or point of view of the author?

3. Does the URL/address contain .edu or .gov?

4. Is the information free of obvious bias--gender, race, religion, etc.?

Currency

1. Does the document include a publication date or a "last updated" date?

2. Is it updated frequently if there is a need for such activity?

3. Does the document provide dates for the statistics provided (example--"based on 2010 U.S. Census")?

Coverage/Content

1. Is the coverage comprehensive (has depth and breadth)?

2. Does the information come from original research, experiments, interviews, books, other documents?

3. Is actual information included or does the site mainly contain links to other sites?

4. Are special features included if appropriate--charts, graphs, maps, etc.?

5. Is the language level appropriate for academic research purposes?

Accessibility/Design

1. Does the style and design of the site enhance information delivery?

2. Can the site be navigated easily?

3. Is it well organized--clearly and logically arranged?

4. Can it be downloaded quickly and efficiently?

5. Are the links clearly and accurately described and still working?

 

Go to the Internet Detective for an excellent tutorial on how to judge your sources. For more information and some great examples, go to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly from New Mexico's University Library.