It's so easy to find information on most any topic on the Internet. Whether or not that information is reliable, up-to-date and unbiased is really the big question for anyone doing research on the web. Books, magazine, journal and newspaper articles have to meet stronger quality control standards, and it's usually not hard to figure out when something was published, who published it and if the information is reliable or not. It's not quite like that with information you find on the web. Anyone can create a Web site, and usually, there aren't standards to evaluate the quality and accuracy of the information. So that makes it even more important to take the time to make sure to critically examine the information and the website. Using 5 important critieria - Accuracy, Authority, Objectivity, Currency, and Coverage - can make wading through the mass of information less confusing, and, help you be a better consumer of information.
Five Criteria - Accuracy, Authority, Objectivity, Currency and Coverage:
|Evaluation of Web documents||How to interpret the basics |
1. Accuracy of Web Documents
- Who wrote the page and can you contact him or her?
- What is the purpose of the document and why was it produced?
- Is this person qualified to write this document?
- Make sure author provides e-mail or a contact address/phone number.
- Know the distinction between author and Webmaster.
2. Authority of Web Documents
- Who published the document and is it separate from the "Webmaster?"
- Check the domain of the document, what institution publishes this document?
- Does the publisher list his or her qualifications?
- What credentials are listed for the authors)?
- Where is the document published? Check URL domain.
3. Objectivity of Web Documents
- What goals/objectives does this page meet?
- How detailed is the information?
- What opinions (if any) are expressed by the author?
- Determine if page is a mask for advertising; if so information might be biased.
- View any Web page as you would an infommercial on television. Ask yourself why was this written and for whom?
4. Currency of Web Documents
- When was it produced?
- When was it updated'
- How up-to-date are the links (if any)?
- How many dead links are on the page?
- Are the links current or updated regularly?
- Is the information on the page outdated?
5. Coverage of the Web Documents
- Are the links (if any) evaluated and do they complement the documents' theme?
- Is it all images or a balance of text and images?
- Is the information presented cited correctly?
- If page requires special software to view the information, how much are you missing if you don't have the software?
- Is it free or is there a fee, to obtain the information?
- Is there an option for text only, or frames, or a suggested browser for better viewing?
Putting it all together
- Accuracy. If your page lists the author and institution that published the page and provides a way of contacting him/her and . . .
- Authority. If your page lists the author credentials and its domain is preferred (.edu, .gov, .org, or .net), and, . .
- Objectivity. If your page provides accurate information with limited advertising and it is objective in presenting the information, and . . .
- Currency. If your page is current and updated regularly (as stated on the page) and the links (if any) are also up-to-date, and . . .
- Coverage. If you can view the information properly--not limited to fees, browser technology, or software requirement, then . . .
You may have a Web page that could be of value to your research!
Used with permission of the author, Jim Kapoun, who is currently the Library Director at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa. The chart is from his article, "Teaching Web Evaluation to Undergrads," which appeared in College and Research Libraries News, July/August 1998: 522-523.