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Evaluating Web Content

Welcome


This guide offers tips for evaluating the quality of content on the Web. The Web is a rich environment of Web pages, blogs, wikis, social networking sites, free research services, media types and more. It can be a challenge to figure out which content to trust. This guide will help you to identify the type of site you are visiting and to evaluate its content.

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A few tips to get you started


Here are a few general tips for evaluating content on the Web. Check that...

  • the author has expertise on the topic. See the next section below for details.

  • the source of the content is stated, whether original or borrowed, quoted, or imported from elsewhere. Material imported from another source via RSS feed can be difficult to identify, as this material can blend in with other content on the page without being appropriately labeled.

  • the content can be independently verified from other sources. This is especially important if you cannot check on the expertise of the author, or if the author is not identified.

  • the level and depth of the information meets your needs.

  • an attractive, professional‐looking presentation doesn’t fool you into accepting all the material at face value. Shoddy presentations are easier to recognize and are a warning to carefully scrutinize the material.

  • the site is currently being maintained. Check for posting or editing dates.

  • up‐to‐date information is provided for topics that require it.

  • links are relevant and appropriate, and are in working order.

  • the site includes contact information.

  • the domain location in the site address (URL) is relevant to the focus of the material, e.g., .edu for educational or research materials. Be aware that .org can indicate either for profit or non‐profit organizations. Note that the domain is not necessarily a primary indicator of site content. For example, some authors post their content on blog or wiki platforms hosted by companies with .com addresses.

Determining the expertise of the author

On the Web, it can be a challenge to judge content based on the identity of the author. Sometimes the author is not stated, or a nickname is used. When an author’s name is shown, here are a few tips on checking out this individual’s expertise.

  • Search a library database or Google Scholar to identify other writings by the author.

  • Search for your author in Google Scholar to see if others have cited works by your author in their own writings.

  • “Google” the author to identify other writings by or about the author. Sometimes an author’s participation in a conference or other professional activity can be identified in the search results.

  • If available, consult an “About” page on the Web site (if there is one) to read the author’s self‐description. Attempt to verify some of the facts.

  • If the author is affiliated with an academic institution, business, or organization, check the directory on the associated Web site to confirm the author’s status.

 

This guide covers the following: