TRUMAN STATE UNIVERSITY Pickler Memorial Library Truman State University

Finding & Evaluating Web resources

Evaluating Web pages is just as important as evaluating print resources and in fact you can use the same evaluation criteria:

  • authority
  • accuracy
  • currency/timeliness
  • content/coverage
  • objectivity

Remember, you need to be careful with Web pages because anyone who has access to a server can post documents to the Web regardless of their expertise (or lack thereof)! Since there is no standard "review process" to publish pages to the Web, you need to evaluate the page carefully to determine the reliability of the site.


Authority of Author: Who is Behind it? [Authority]

Questions to Ask How to Find Out
Who is the author/sponsor of the site? Use the URL for the Web site to help determine the author/sponsor.  Check the domain.

In this Example you can see from the URL that it is a Federal Government site sponsored by the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII).  Look for an ABOUT link for more information on the sponsoring agency and mission of the site.

Who wrote the page? In this Example there is no author listed so how can you determine their credentials? Again check the About link, in this case we still do not know if it is a student or a faculty member.
Credentials listed? Use other sources to find information. Remember   biographical information can be found using sources like Biography and Genealogy Master Index  or Literature Resource Center

Content, Scope:  What's There [Accuracy, Currency, Coverage]

Questions to Ask How to Find Out
To what depth is the topic covered? Read the page. It is often hard to determine the extent of coverage on Web sites because of all the links.
Is the information accurate? Can you verify the information elsewhere?
Is it second-hand information?

Is the source of the information documented? 

Two pages about the Cuban Missile Crisis:

One: An example of second hand information that is well-documented, look at the bibliography!

Two : A primary source--Cut the URL back to just to see that the document comes from the National Security Archive hosted by George Washington University.

How old is the information? Can you determine what the date on the web page means, 1st created, last revised? 

Purpose, Viewpoint:  Why does it exist? [Authority, Objectivity]

Questions to Ask How to Find Out
What is the page's intent?

Inform, persuade, sell etc...

Read the page, also look for a mission statement or About Us link. In this example, if you go to the organization's home page and click on the Basics tab you can read about their purpose.
Who sponsors the page? Look at the URL and the domain, is it a government, non-profit organization, or commercial site?
Is the page biased?  Is the bias openly stated? Again, read the content. Is the language emotional or inflammatory? In this example, the organization's mission is stated right in the header of the page. For more information about the organization use the Who We Are link at the bottom of the page.
Is the page a satire or parody? It is fairly obvious that this is an example of a news parody. On other sites, it might be harder to tell, be careful!

Wrapping things up....

The Web can be thought of as a fairly democratic medium.... anyone with access to a Web server may put content on the Web; they do not  have to have a publisher or even get approval. Yet, that is the very reason why you must view every Web page with a critical eye and evaluate it in light of your information needs.

Searching Tips

Learn the basics of search engine math or use Advanced Search!
        + indicates the term must appear
        -  indicates the terms must NOT appear
        "   "  indicates a phrase

Using Advanced Search

1.  You can also search for specific domains:  edu, gov, etc.

Note:  Some search engines are paid to include Web sites. "The FTC has asked the search engine industry to ensure that they are being 'clear and conspicuous' in disclosing their use of paid content."

2.  You can find out what other sites link to it.
For example, Google's Advanced Search.    Look down to Page-Specific Search.
You can find other sites like it, and you can find other sites that link to it.
Just put the URL in the box.


Searching Google vs Google scholar

What do you notice about the search results generated by the simple keyword search: flirting in Google compared to Google scholar?

Google - flirting        Google scholar -flirting


Encouraging Discovery