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Evaluating Websites  

Last Updated: Feb 21, 2013 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
Evaluating Sources Print Page

How do you know a website is reliable?

Evaluating a Website

How can you tell that a web site you would like to use for your research is reliable? Because of the open nature of web publishing (most anyone can post information to a web site and make it look professional) it is especially important that you understand how to evaluate a website for credibility before citing it in your research. Answering the following questions about a website provides one with the necessary information to make a determination about the accuracy and validity of the information retrieved.

The Four W's of Website Evaluation

Who created this website?
Person? An Organization?
What does the URL (Web address) say about the creator of the web site?
.gov (Government Agency), .edu (College or university) .mil  (U.S. military)
.org, .net, .com (no restrictions, these domains can be purchased by anyone) 
(A "tilde" in a URL means this is a personal website)
Look for links to the author/sponsor
"About Me", "Home", "Background", "Bio"
If you can't find the home page, try deleting part of the URL.
Conduct a link search to see if other reputable sources link to the website.
Use the link operator by typing link:URL
Why was this website created?
Inform? (fact or opinion?)
Persuade? (other viewpoints?)
Sell a product or service?
What information does the website provide?
Does the information appear to be accurate?
Are there sources or support for the information?
Is the information free of bias?
Is the website well-organized and easy to read?

When was the information published?
Is the information up-to-date?
Does the information on your topic need to be current?


    NOT Reliable Websites!

    Don't use articles from content farms.

    Content farm websites have a lot of articles on a variety of topics, but they are written by freelance writers who are paid very little and whose job is to generate ad revenue. The writers use keywords in their articles in order to attain high search engine rankings.

    Here is an example of one of these articles. Click on the author: Cyberbullying and Its Effect on Teenagers

    Here is a content farm cartoon that explains it pretty well...

    List of the largest and most prevalent content farms.  

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