Evaluating Web Sources

by Theresa Rhodes last modified 2014-08-14T04:30:08-04:00

Note: This guide focuses on evaluating web resources for your CHR 250 assignments. Additional course-specific resources are available on the Christianity Subject Librarian page.

The Internet can be a great place to accomplish research on many topics. As the reader, you must remember that putting documents or pages on the web is

  • easy
  • cheap or free
  • unregulated
  • unmonitored (at least in the USA)

You must establish the validity, authorship, timeliness, and integrity of what you find.

Key Questions to Ask

1. Authority: Who's behind the site?

  • who serves as the author/editor, and are their credentials listed?
  • do they appear qualified based on the listed credentials?
  • are there logos or links to more information on the sponsor, author, or publisher?
  • check the domain name .org (non-profit), .edu (educational), .gov (government), .com (commercial)

2. Audience: Who's targeted as potential readers?

  • is the site created for a general audience or a scholarly audience?
  • is the site too elementary, too technical, or too advanced?
  • is the site an overview of your topic, or does it provide specific, detail information?

3. Content: How does it look?

  • is the site relatively free of spelling and grammatical errors?
  • can the information presented be verified in another source?
  • does the site include a bibliography or reference list?
  • is there an obvious bias?
  • is anything glaringly omitted?

4. Timely: How old is it?

  • when was the site produced?
  • when was the last time the site was updated?
  • is your topic one that needs current information, or is historical information sufficient?

5. Objectivity: Why does the site exist?

  • why did the author/sponsor create the site?
  • is the site sponsored by someone?
  • are links to other, even opposing, viewpoints listed?
  • is the site possible an ironic site ... satire ... or a parody?

6. Access and Design: How easy is it to use?

  • is the site organization clear on the first screen?
  • are there any advertisements or other distractions?
  • is the site easy to navigate?

7. What's the bottom line: Should I?

  • do you feel comfortable citing this page in a scholarly research paper?

 

If in doubt, ask for help--looks are deceiving