Books and journals you find in a library go through 2 review processes. First, an editor or committee of peers reviews material for quality, accuracy, credibility and substance. Then, librarians review it, one, for quality, and two, to see if it meets the needs of the college’s curriculum.
No such process takes place for websites. Anyone can publish anything on the Web. Anyone can claim to have a degree or expertise in a subject area. Below is a list of questions to ask when you are selecting websites that will help you determine whether or not to use a site.
- Who wrote it? An individual? An organization? A company?
- What are the author’s credentials?
- What makes him or her (or a company or organization) qualified to write on a subject?
- Can you find information about the author doing a Google search?
- If you can’t find information about the author, can you at least contact him or her to ask questions?
- What exactly are you looking at? An advertisement? A message board? A blog? An editorial? An article?
- Does it have depth and substance? Is the information scholarly?
- When was the page created? Has it been around for a while (stability)?
- Is it kept up-to-date?
- Are the links kept up-to-date?
- Is current information important for your topic?
- Where does the author get his or her information? Is it first-hand research? If not, does the author cite his or her sources?
- What is the domain (com, edu, org, gov, net)? The domain is important because suppose you are researching a prescription drug. You end up at the drug company’s homepage. Do you think the company might have an objective other than providing unbiased information? They are obviously want people to buy their drug.
- What is the purpose of the page? Why did the author put the information on the Web?
- Is there a mission statement or an “About Us” link?
- What is the bias or point of view?
- How is the information presented? Is it organized?
- Does the page look like it was done by a professional or does it look like amateur work?
- Is there a lot of advertising or unnecessary graphics?
- Does the level of writing sound academic?
- Are there grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors?