Evaluating Internet Resources
As students become more familiar with using Internet information resources, the need to be able to evaluate resources becomes more important. Traditional resources such as books or periodicals have the publisher or editor select items for timeliness, accuracy or bias. Almost anyone can place a Web page on the Internet, so the reader needs to evaluate the contents of Internet-based resources. Here are some guidelines for evaluating Internet resources:
- Author: The author name and e-mail address should be provided on the Web site home page. Does the author have any credentials? Is the author known in the field, are any affiliations listed?
- Producer: Is the producer / affiliation of the page clearly noted? Was this produced by an organization? What can you find out about this organization? Is it a well-known professional organization or is it unknown? Are the members professionals, advocates, or consumers? Does the organization have an inherent bias, such as a political party, lobbying organization, etc? Is there a way to contact the producer?
- Site: Is the URL clearly noted? What can you find out about the site? What is the ending suffix (.edu, .com, .net, etc.) ?
- Publication: Is this a single page, or part of a series? Is it by the same author, a collection of authors, or an organization? Is this an abstract or a full text of an article or presentation? Where and when was it published or presented?
- Purpose: What was the purpose of the document? Was it designed to inform others of new research, summarize existing research, advocate for a position, stimulate discussion, or serve as a promotional or entertainment resource?
- Date of Publication: When was the page placed on the Internet? When was it updated? Are the updates relevant?
- Arrangement: How difficult was it to find out each of the above? Was the information clearly presented in a conspicuous place? Is it missing altogether?
- Intended Audience: Is it written for professionals, consumers, advocates, etc? Is it elementary or technical? Would the intended audience change the scope or slant of the article or information? How does this affect its usefulness?
- Coverage: Does this page cover the information you need? Does the page include links to other pages to reference or back up information brought up in the paper? Does the page contain substantive information, or is it just a collection of links to other sources?
- Writing Style / Reasoning: Is the information presented in an orderly, well-reasoned manner? Does the information appear to be well researched and valid? Are the assumptions and conclusions well documented? Is it presented as fact or opinion? Can you detect any bias, or emotionally loaded words?
- References: Is the page well documented? Are there links to any of the sources? Is the page referenced to information on the same server or to servers at other sites? How current or relevant are the references?
From Desey, Don. E. Evaluating Internet Resources, in Tech Trends, Vol. 41, no. 4, pp. 3-4, September 1996. http://www.lme.mankato.msus.edu/ded/tt.19eval.html