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Criteria for Evaluation
Students need to learn to evaluate the quality of information they find on the web as well as other information resources such as books, magazines, CD-ROM, and television. Ask students to be skeptical of everything they find. Encourage them to compare and contrast different information resources. Consider the following ideas: Authority. Who says? Know the author.

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Who created this information and why? Do you recognize this author or their work? What knowledge or skills do they have in the area? Is he or she stating fact or opinion? What else has this author written? Does the author acknowledge other viewpoints and theories?

Objectivity. Is the information biased? Think about perspective.

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Is the information objective or subjective? Is it full of fact or opinion? Does it reflect bias? How? How does the sponsorship impact the perspective of the information? Are a balance of perspectives represented? Could the information be meant as humorous, a parody, or satire?

Authenticity. Is the information authentic? Know the source.

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Where does the information originate? Is the information from an established organization? Has the information been reviewed by others to insure accuracy? Is this a primary source or secondary source of information? Are original sources clear and documented? Is a bibliography provided citing the sources used?

Reliability. Is this information accurate? Consider the origin of the information.

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Are the sources truth worthy? How do you know? Who is sponsoring this publication? Does the information come from a school, business, or company site? What's the purpose of the information resource: to inform, instruct, persuade, sell? Does this matter? What's their motive?

Timeliness. Is the information current? Consider the currency and timeliness of the information.

 Does the page provide information about timeliness such as specific dates of information?  Does currency of information matter with your particular topic?  How current are the sources or links?
Relevance. Is the information helpful? Think about whether you need this information.

 Does the information contain the breadth and depth needed?  Is the information written in a form that is useable (i.e. reading level, technical level)?  Is the information in a form that is useful such as words, pictures, charts, sounds, or video?

Is this information worth the effort? Think about the organization and speed of information access. Students will be amazed at the range of answers that will be provided.gov.com or Librarian's Index? Cross-Check Data. whose list? Is this list credible? If the site has won an award. Do the facts contribute something new or add to your knowledge of the subject?  Will this information be useful to your project? Efficiency. In other words. but it may provide an indication of the sponsor. while others are experts in a content area field. When was the page originally posted? When was the last time the page was updated? This information is generally at the bottom of each page or at least the first page of the website. For information about the content of the page. Another hint about the quality of the website is the copyright date. see if you can locate a page that tells "about the website. museum. they could star each item that has been doubled or triple checked.. school resource. what's the criteria for the award and how is the award given? You can also track forward. and web pages. philosophy. Consider using a variety of information formats including encyclopedia. there should be three independent resources confirming each pieces of questionable data. Do they go to good or poor quality sites? Is this website cited in subject guides such as About. Does the site use banner sponsors? What do they sell? Is a well-known organization a sponsor? Consider whether the site's sponsors could impact the perspective to the website. or email address.net. consider emailing the webmaster and asking about the site's content. Start by examining the page itself. menu. Look for sponsors." Use a search engine to search for the "URL" or author of the website in question. headings)?  Is the information quick to access? Finding Website Evaluation Information As you explore information on the web." Sometimes there's a "contact us" page. sales. Start with an overview of the contents of the page. Can you determine the purpose and audience of the page? Does the page focus on information. experts. index. . Does it appear on a "favorites" list? If so. In most cases. If you can't find the answer there. In addition to the act of evaluating a single page. keep in mind that there are many different types of information from research data to opinions. The author of the page and the webmaster may or may not be the same person. Ask Questions. If you still can't determine the quality of the information. Sometimes you can answer these questions by reading the creation information at the bottom of the main page. What kind of domain (. This cross-checking can be done different ways. commercial or private web project? Try to determine who published the page. look at the links that are used by the web developer of your site.  Is the information well-organized including a table of contents. fonts. look for a link to an author biography.org. Is it an individual or an agency? Can you find a name attached to the page? Look at the core page for the entire website (everything between the http:// and the first /) and see who sponsored the site and how information was selected. . You might also try truncating the website address to see each level between slashes.com) is it? This doesn't always help. In other words. .e. Look at the web address (URL). a company wants the information at their site to reflect positively on them. or a mixture? Search for Clues. . advocacy. Is it a government site. Some webmasters post anything that's given to them. or background information. students also need to learn to crosscheck information. For example. organization. news. videos. Look for a name. . graphics. magazine articles. Another way to learn more about a website is to see "who links to them" and "who they link to.edu. Track Backward and Forward. if students are creating a graphic organizer. and other easy-to-follow tools for navigation?  Is the information presented in a way that is easy to use (i.

and extends beyond the page to what others may say about the page or its author(s). follows through by investigating the content of page.html Looking for the Web Page Evaluation Checklist PDF form? Evaluating web pages skillfully requires you to do two things at once: 1. by asking a series of questions that will help you decide how much a web page is to be trusted. Aspartame) http://www. Drugs)  Set 2 (Latin. students need to understand the spectrum of options between fact and opinion. Gun Control.This excellent article explores the issue of truth on the web and provides dozens of excellent examples of hoaxes. Cloning. Be sure to check out the Hints and Tips for each topic. Students can see misinformation and propaganda in action. This great activity asks students to explore online resources to determine why evaluation is so important. Issues of perspective.  Truth. and Student Sample (PPT)  Evaluation Wizard (PPT) Web Evaluation Activities  Evaluating Web Pages: Experience WHY it's important. Web Evaluation Tools  Critical Evaluation Tools from Kathy Schrock  Website Evaluation Form (PPT). and bias must be discussed. even suspiciously.lib. Give students the opportunity to question their findings and discuss their concerns. quickly find what you need to know about web pages.  Example Sets: sites and sets of sites that are good for practicing evaluation  Set 1 (Smoking & Tobacco.Filtering Information When filtering information. Try their evaluation pdf form.berkeley. and the Internet . Immigration. This page is organized to combine the two techniques into a process that begins with looking at your search results from a search engine or other source. and other interesting Internet issues. . Train your eye and your fingers to employ a series of techniques that help you 2. Train your mind to think critically.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/Evaluate. The following websites provide interesting activities to get you students thinking about the quality of information on the Internet. Mayan Calendar. AIDS. One of the advantages of using the Internet with students is the availability of so many examples. Immigration. myths. Lies. point of view. Evaluation Activity (PPT).

)  Is the domain extension appropriate for the content? o Government sites: look for . o The server is usually named in first portion of the URL (between http:// and the first /) Have you heard of this entity before? You can rely more on information that is published by the source:   Look for New York Times news from www.edu (Note that this can include personal student and faculty pages as well as official college and university pages) o Nonprofit organizations: look for . or domain owner vouching for the jbarker or barker) following a tilde ( ~ information in the page. etc.glean all you can from the URLs of each page. there is no publisher o Look for a personal name (e.us. . Before you leave the list of search results -.de." or "people.mil o Educational sites: look for . government. What kind of information source do you think is most reliable for your topic? What type of domain does it come from ? (educational. ." o Is the server a commercial ISP or other provider of web page hosting (like aol. and . Read the URL carefully: For personal pages. What can the URL tell you? Techniques for Web Evaluation : 1." but you need to investigate the author carefully. ).g.before you click and get interested in anything written on the page -. such as . are no longer tightly controlled and may be misused." "members. Then choose pages most likely to be reliable and authentic. or or the words "users. but also use the techniques in sections 2 and 4 below to see who published the web page. commercial. the publisher is the agency or person operating the "server" computer from which the document is issued. 2.org (Note that this is no longer restricted to nonprofits) Many country codes.gov..uk.nytimes.com or geocities. nonprofit. Look at the country code. Questions to ask: Is it somebody's personal page?  What are the implications? Personal pages are not necessarily "bad.  Is it published by an entity that makes sense? Who "published" the page?  In general. a percent sign ( % ).com Look for health information from any of the agencies of the National Institute of Health on sites with nih somewhere in the  .1.com) Look for appropriateness.

the author is not sufficient for o If you cannot find this. Look for the name of the author. someone who claims agency. Check the date on all the pages on the site. Press enter to see if you can see more about the author or the origins/nature of the site providing the page. INSTRUCTIONS for Truncating back a URL: In the top Location Box. 2. the importance of the date is to tell you whether the page author is still  Is the page dated? Is it current enough?   Is it "stale" or "dusty" information on a time-sensitive or evolving topic? CAUTION: Undated factual or statistical information is no better than anonymous information. Scan the perimeter of the page.usually at the bottom of a web page. Continue this process." "Philosophy. In some cases. Don't use it without confirmation. 2. How recent the date needs to be depends on your needs. Does it correspond to the name of the site? domain name. locate the assessing the author's publisher by truncating back the credentials. this publisher claim responsibility try emailing the author for the content? Does it explain and asking politely for why the page exists in any way? more information about him/her. Look for the date "last updated" . delete the end characters of the URL stopping just before each / (leave the slash). This is the page's server or "publisher. etc. until you reach the first single / which is preceded by the domain name portion. Look for links that say "About us. or the You are looking for name of the organization." "Background. institution. one slash (/) at a time. you want information put on the web near the time it became known. or whatever who is responsible for accountability and the page responsibility for the o An e-mail contact is not enough content. you can often find this kind of information if you Truncate back the URL." "Biography". If there is no personal author." 3. look for an An e-mail address with no agency or organization that claims additional information about responsibility for the page. looking for answers to these questions: Techniques for Web Evaluation : 1. Does If this is all you have. Questions to ask: Who wrote the page?  What are the implications? Web pages are created with a purpose in mind by some person or agency or entity. URL (see technique above). For some topics you want current information. . If you cannot find any links like these. For others.

selfproclaimed expert. good newspaper). If there are links to other pages as sources. Look for indicators of quality information: Techniques for Web Evaluation : 1.  3. Many web pages are opinion pieces offered in a vast public forum. You should hold the author to the same degree of credentials. an extreme view. Questions to ask: Are sources documented with footnotes or links?  Where did the author get the information? o As in published scholarly/academic journals and books. Look for a link called "links. it is possible to create totally fake references. journal article. look very closely at documentation of sources (next section). Look at the publisher of the page (first part of the URL). Your task is to distinguish between the reliable and questionable. you should expect documentation. relevant credentials. are they to reliable sources? Do the links work? What are the implications? In scholarly/research work. or has abandoned it. Look at the bottom of such articles for copyright information or permissions to reproduce. 3. Saying what you believe without documentation is not much better than just expressing an opinion or a point of view." "additional sites. and documentation that you would expect from something published in a reputable print resource (book. What are the author's credentials on this subject?   Does the purported background or education look like someone who is qualified to write on this topic? Might the page be by a hobbyist. What credibility does your research need?   . authority." "related links. possibly distorted or exaggerated? If you cannot find strong. take the time to explore them. In the text. or enthusiast? o Is the page merely an opinion? Is there any reason you should believe its content more than any other page? o Is the page a rant. if you see little footnote numbers or links that might refer to documentation. 2. newspaper article. Expect a journal article. and some other publications that are recent to come from the original publisher IF the publication is available on the web.maintaining an interest in the page. Anyone can put anything on the web for pennies in just a few minutes. the credibility of most writings is proven through footnote documentation or other means of revealing the sources of information. What kinds of publications or sites are they? Reputable? Scholarly? Are they real? On the web (where no publisher is editing most pages)." etc.

or that lead to other weak or fringe pages. not fake or forged?   Is it retyped? If so. it should be accompanied by the copyright statement and/or permission to reprint. If it is not. Many well developed pages offer links to other pages on the same topic that they consider worthwhile. and the text could be altered. especially when you agree with what's being said. If reproduced information (from another source). Anything not said that would be said if all points of view were represented? Always look for bias in text and links. and/or evaluated/annotated? Do the links work? Do the links represent other viewpoints? Do the links (or absence of other viewpoints) indicate a bias? . But these are not scholarly. well organized. be suspicious. it could easily be altered. is it complete.An exception can be journalism from highly reputable newspapers. it is likely that it is illegally reproduced. Pages that offer opposing viewpoints as well as their own are more likely to be balanced and unbiased than pages that offer only one view. do not help strengthen the credibility of your research. Try to find the source. not altered. Links that don't work. Are there links to other resources on the topic?     Are the links well chosen. Look at the URL: is it from the original source? If you find a legitimate article from a reputable journal or other publication. Is it reproduced from another publication? o Are permissions to reproduce and copyright information provided? o Is there a reason there are not links to the original source if it is online (instead of reproducing it)? You may have to find the original to be sure a copy of something is not altered and is complete. If the URL of the document is not to the original source. Check with your instructor before using this type of material. even with the copyright information present.

search the name three ways: a. Do a link: search in Google. enclosed in quotes as a phrase: "Firstname Lastname" c. What do others say? Techniques for Web Evaluation : 1. Infomine. We suggest trying more than one. Contact/ownership info for the domain name. enclosed in quotes with * between the first and last name: "Firstname * Lastname" (The * can stand for any middle initial or name in Google only). and type link: in the search box. and Is the page listed in one or more reputable directories or pages? . Find out what other web pages link to this page. If you find no links. Go to the search engine site. Click on the "Get details" button. The pages listed all contain one or more links to the page you are looking for.com's search box. "Related links" to other sites visited by people who visited the page. You will see. b. depending on the volume of traffic to the page:      Traffic details. Use alexa. Note: Different search engines give very different results for "link:" searches.4. Good directories include a tiny fraction of the web. try a shorter portion of the URL." an archive showing what the page looked like in the past. or another search engine where this can be done: 1. Look up the title or publisher of the page in a reputable directory that evaluates its contents (ipl2. Read both points of view. 3. Sometimes a page is linked to by both its fans and its detractors. 3. Look up the author's name in Google or Yahoo! For the most complete results in Google. 2. stopping after each /. Sites linking in to the page. a. Yahoo!. 2. or a specialized directory you trust). A link to the "Wayback Machine. Copy the URL of the page you are investigating (Ctrl+C in Windows). Questions to ask: Who links to the page?    Are there many links? What kinds of sites link to it? What do they say? What are the implications? Sometimes a page is linked to only by other parts of its own site (not much of a recommendation).com: Type or paste the URL into alexa. without quotes: Firstname Lastname b. About.com. Paste the URL into the search box immediately following link: (no space after the colon).

spoof. . Think about why the page was created. Does it all add up? Techniques for Web Evaluation : 1. fraud. But read what the directory says! It may not be 100% positive. 3. 2. and what they say about it. Google Blog Search is a good way to do this. Be sure to consider the source. the intentions of its author(s). The web is a public place. and this can make you look foolish in turn. give data? Explain. persuade? Sell. or URL. You need to be aware of the entire range of human possibilities of intentions behind web pages. open to all. give facts. Ask yourself if the web is truly the best place to find resources for the research you are doing.inclusion in a directory is therefore noteworthy. Humorous? Parody? Exaggerated? Overblown arguments? Outrageous photographs or juxtaposition of unlikely images? Arguing a viewpoint with examples that suggest that what is argued is ultimately It is easy to be fooled. search on the site's name. Also see which blogs refer to the site. ask your instructor or come to one of the library reference desks and ask for advice. entice? Share? Disclose? So what? What are the implications? These are some of the reasons to think of. 5. What do others say about the author or responsible authoring body? "Googling" someone can be revealing. Might it be ironic? Satire or parody?     Think about the "tone" of the page. expect to find detractors. Be sensitive to the possibility that you are the victim of irony. If you have doubts. Questions to ask: Why was the page put on the web?      Inform. Listen to your gut reaction. author. Step back and think about all you have learned about the page. or other falsehood. If the viewpoint is radical or controversial.

one says to the other "On the Internet. But putting documents or pages on the web is easy. authorship.not possible.the reader . In the general World Wide Web there are no editors (unlike most print publications) to proofread and "send it back" or "reject it" until it meets the standards of a publishing house's reputation. 1993) with two dogs sitting before a terminal looking at a computer screen.) available in print or online through the library?  Are you being completely fair? Too harsh? Totally objective? Requiring the same degree of "proof" you would from a print publication? Is the site good for some things and not for others? Are your hopes biasing your interpretation? What is your requirement (or your instructor's requirement) for the quality of reliability of your information? In general. But take the time to check it out. unregulated. find one another. Even within university and library web sites. There are some real "dogs" out there. nobody knows you're a dog. Therein lies the rationale for evaluating carefully whatever you find on the Web. many publishing houses and news sources. most institutions and societies. The web needs to be free like that!! And you. many reputable agencies and publishers make great stuff available by "publishing" it on the web. cheap or free. Documents can easily be copied and falsified or copied with omissions and errors -. Most pages found in general search engines for the web are self-published or published by businesses small and large with motives to get you to buy something or believe a point of view. but there's also great treasure. need to cultivate the habit of healthy skepticism. timeliness. . if you want to use it for serious research. etc.intentional or accidental. there can be many pages that the institution does not try to oversee. Is this as credible and useful as the resources (books. and. But many. discover possible peers worldwide they never would have otherwise met. through hypertext links in web pages. journal articles. There is a famous Steiner cartoon published in the New Yorker (July 5.   WHY? Rationale for Evaluating What You Find on the Web The World Wide Web can be a great place to accomplish research on many topics. of questioning everything you find with critical thinking.to establish the validity. and unmonitored (at least in the USA). This applies to most governments. published information is considered more reliable than what is on the web. The burden is on you . exchange ideas. and integrity of what you find. suggest so many other people's ideas and personalities to anyone who comes and clicks." The great wealth that the Internet has brought to so much of society is the ability for people to express themselves.

search the subject "Evaluation of Internet Resources" in ipl2 <http://www.edu/researchhelp/general/evaluating/> An excellent guide from the Milton Library at Johns Hopkins University.library. For annotated descriptions of many other good guides to evaluating web pages.More About Evaluating Web Sources   Evaluating Information Found on the Internet <http://www.ipl.org>.jhu. Quick Links Search Engines |Subject Directories | Meta-Search Engines | Invisible Web .