When books or journal articles are evaluated and indexed, many things are considered. Authority (of the author / organization and publisher), Accuracy, Objectivity, and Timeliness among other things. Websites likewise, can be evaluated in much the same way, by using many of the same tools. This page will offer some questions to ask yourself in order to determine the validity of your search results.
Of primary importance when evaluating a website for use in academic research is to determine who is responsible for the content.
-If the subject is in your field of expertise, do you recognize the person or organization listed as one of known authority?
-Is there an author, editor or webmaster listed? Are credentials given for those individuals listed?
-Is there a way to contact those listed for more information if necessary?
-If no author information is listed, does the URL or domain indicate a source of authority (e.g. .edu, .org, .gov)
When you first view the information presented on the website can you determine:
-Is the text reliable and free of errors?
-How was the information gathered? Are there links to other research sites to help verify the information presented?
-Is there a list of sources or names of individuals whose previously published work was used as source information?
-In the case of included data, is accurate information given on how the data was collected, sorted and interpreted?
A source used for research, even though it may focus one side of an issue should not show bias in its presentation
-Is the source a group known for it's "agenda" in trying to further its cause through sensationalism?
-Is the content fact or propaganda? Is the information presented in a manner which allows the reader to formulate his own opinion?
-Is the information from a personal page of an author being presented on the web through a host web page?
In some areas of study, the timeliness of information has little to do with the subject matter - e.g. historical events, some areas of literature, etc. On the other hand, there are some fields, e.g. science and medicine, which are always changing and require exposure to the most current material at all times. There are ways to ascertain whether the website you are using is current.
-When was the web page last updated? This information is usually available near the bottom of the web page.
-Is there information concerning how often the data is regularly updated?
-Are there links to other sites from the main site. Are they current? Are there many dead links listed?