To evaluate a website, start by considering the four criteria below and asking the associated questions.
1. Currency -- The date when a web page was created or updated can make a difference in how helpful it is for your argument.
- When was the web page/article written or updated? (NOTE: You may have to look at the bottom of the page, near the title, or on the site's home page.)
- Is the information current enough for your project?
- Why might the date matter for your topic?
2. Reliability -- In order to be reliable, a website should usually provide relevant support for the arguments it contains. Otherwise, the information has no clear context which you can use to verify facts or trace meaningful dialog.
- Does the author use sources to support the page's arguments?
- If so, how many sources are used?
- Is it clear exactly which specific sources the author used?
- Why are the sources used appropriate or inappropriate support for the argument?
3. Authority -- Determining whether the person or organization providing the information is qualified to make such an argument is helpful for judging the value of the information.
- What is the name of the person(s) or organization that wrote the page? (NOTE: You may have to visit the home page or "About" page to answer this.)
- What can you find about this person's institutional affiliation, education, or relevant experience? (NOTE: It might help to Google the person or organization.)
- How does this author's background make them an authority?
- What kind of bias might this background suggest?
4. Purpose and Point of View of Website -- Looking at the larger context of the web page or website can help you make a decision about how much you trust its information.
- What is the domain extension of the website?
- What would you say is the main reason the web page was put on the internet?
- To persuade others and provide opinions?
- To provide facts or information?
- To sell something?
- Something else?
- If there are advertisements on the web page, are they related to the main information on the page?
- Do the headlines and images seem to match what the author is saying?
- Based on the writing style, vocabulary, and graphics, who is the intended audience that the web page is trying to reach?
- The general public?
- Scholars or professionals?