Evaluating Information from the Web

Anyone can publish anything on the Web.

The information you find on the web may not be screened or checked for accuracy. It is essential that you evaluate the quality of the material you find on the Web, whether you are researching academic assignments or using the information for personal reasons.

Web page reporting Elvis sighting

Answering the following questions can help you judge the quality of a particular Web site:

  • Accuracy
    • How reliable and error free is the information?
    • If the information is presented as factual, what kind of documentation or references are provided?
  • Authority
    • Is the author or source identified?
    • Is there a way to verify the legitimacy of the page's sponsor? An email address is not enough. Is there a phone number or postal address to contact for more information?
    • What kind of qualifications does the author have?
    • Is a credible sponsoring institution cited?
  • Objectivity and Intention
    • What is the aim or purpose of the site? Why was it created? Is the site designed to inform, persuade, or sell?
    • Is the information provided as a public service or is it designed to promote a particular view of certain issues?
    • Is personal bias apparent? Does the information seem balanced, objective, or does it give opinions and views?
    • Is the information free of advertising? If there is advertising on the page, is it clearly differentiated from the informational content?
  • Currency
    • Are there dates on the page to indicate: When the page was written? When it was first placed on the Internet? When it was last revised?
    • If material is presented in graphs and/or charts, is it clearly stated when the data was gathered?

This kind of information may be located by checking the header, body, and footer of a Web document.

Web page with showing header, body, and footer marked

If you don't find the information you are looking for on the Web page, look for a link for more information, such as about this page, about us, or about this site. Sometimes you may need to return to the "root" of the URL. For example, watch the URL below, as we take away various files and pages to reach http://www.wired.com:

Chapter 6 — Page 13