Evaluating Web Sites
What criteria can help us determine whether a Web site contains useful information?
by Vance Stevens, Computing Lecturer, Petroleum Institute
What is the topic of my project and why have I chosen this topic?
Before we can use information found in web sites on the Internet, we need to evaluate the quality of the sites found. This is a project to examine and compare Internet web sites dealing with the evaluation of other web sites. I have selected sites that present some criteria for helping us determine whether a Web page contains useful information or not. From these sites I have developed my own set of criteria for evaluating web sites. Finally I have ranked the sites according to these criteria.
Here are some web pages that are relevant to my topic:
Evaluating Web Sites: Criteria and Tools
This site presents a detailed overview of things to look for in Web sites. There are many links to additional information, some of which are shown below. The site is documented with a 'webliography' with six references. The information here appears to be trustworthy. The page is on the Cornell University library website. This page appeared first in a Google search on 'evaluating web sites,' which shows that many others have used this site. The information appears current, as the site was revised as recently as April 2003.
Five criteria for evaluating Web pages
Rating: 80 (sparse but relevant info presented in table, taken from single source)
This page is a part of the website mentioned above. I thought the information here was well presented, as it displays a chart showing more information on how accurate, authoritative, objective (balanced), up-to-date, and how well-displayed a site is.
- "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!"
The source of this infomation is given: it is reprinted (with permission) from Kapoun, Jim. "Teaching undergrads WEB evaluation: A guide for library instruction." C&RL News (July/August 1998): 522-523. This page is not all that recent but the advice given is still timely.
Evaluating Information Found on the Internet
The Sheridan Libraries of The Johns Hopkins University
Rating: 82 (a little hard to read, lots of links but not easy for ESL students)
This page is also authoritative, as it is on the Johns Hopkins University web site. It gives detailed information on consideration of:
- Publishing body
- Point of view or bias
- Referral to other sources
- Currency (how current or up-to-date a site is)
- How to distinguish propaganda, misinformation and disinformation
- The mechanics of determining authorship, publishing body, and currency on the Internet
This page also includes information on "The mechanics of determining authorship, publishing body, and currency on the Internet" which might help students understand why sites are listed on certain search engines and how some sites pay for ranking.
Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask
Also distributed from a university server, this is a detailed site with many links from an authoritative source wishing to educate users of the Internet. It suggests you ask many questions when exploring the Internet:
- Is it somebody's personal page?
- What type of domain does it come from ?
- Who "published" the page?
- Is the page dated? Is it current enough?
- What are the author's credentials on this subject? A
- re sources documented with footnotes or links? Where did the author get the information?
- If reproduced information (from another source), is it complete, not altered, not fake or forged? Is it retyped? If so, it could easily be altered.
- Are there links to other resources on the topic? Are the links well chosen, well organized, and/or evaluated/annotated? Do the links work? Do the links represent other viewpoints? Always look for bias.
- What do others say? Who links to the page?
- Why was the page put on the web? Inform, give facts, give data? Explain, persuade? Sell, entice?
- Might it be ironic? Satire or parody? Humorous? Exaggerated?
Evaluating Quality on the Net
This page was prepared by a librarian and updated in 2003. Although it is therefore current and authoriative, it appears to be on Hope Tillman's personal site. This is an full-length article on evaluating Web sites, so it's a lot for students to read. But there are many examples given, with links to the sites discussed. One of these sites is the one given below.
Walt's Navigating the Net Forum: Evaluating Quality
© 2001 by Walt Howe (last revised 25 April 2001)
Rating: 76 (Short article in large font with some examples but no graphics, and is also on a personal site)
Although Walt Howe is Hope Tillman's husband, and the site is over two years old, it seems appropriate for students because the information is clearly presented in simple English. Four essential issues are discussed relating to quality:
- Is the information accurate?
- Is the author an authority on the subject?
- Does the author bring any biases in posting the information?
- Is the information current and timely?
The page that seemed most relevant to my project while remaining easily accessible to many of my students was "Evaluating Web Sites: Criteria and Tools, from the Cornell University Library." I gave this site an 84 rating. I thought that Hope Tillman's article, "Evaluating Quality on the Net" gave the most comprehensive and detailed coverage of the topic of the few sites I looked at, but if I were a student in one of my classes, I probably wouldn't use this site because it was too detailed for my purpose, which was to find criteria for evaluating the quality of information on the Internet. I thought the other sites all presented that information in more easily accessible form.
The criteria from these pages have been used to make a Worksheet for Evaluating Web Sites, intended for use by university students who need a means of judging the quality of information they find on the Internet. The worksheet can be seen here.
Link to Word document
As one of the requirements of this project, a Word document is being prepared presenting results in a table. The document can be seen here.
Link to results of an exercise where these evaluation criteria were applied by students at the PI-->
This update: November
23, 2005 (update link for Sheridan
Address questions or comments to vstevens at pi.ac.ae http://www.vancestevens.com/