How Do I ... > Evaluate a Web Source
Ask yourself these questions when you find an information source:
- Does this item fit your information need? Does it cover the material
you need for your research?
- Is the author an expert on this subject? Look for information about the author's credentials at the beginning or end of a book or journal article. Explore pages with the same URL to find out about the author or organization associated with Web pages. (For example, you could find the Sherrod Library homepage by truncating the address of this page back to http://sherrod.etsu.edu, which links to other information about the Sherrod Library and ETSU.)
- What is the viewpoint of this author on this subject? Everything has some bias inherent in it. If you know what an author's bias is, you can better evaluate the information provided. Watch particularly for materials that use emotional words to elicit responses in the reader. Be aware of your responses to the rhetoric used in a piece of writing. Look for what is not in the writing as well as what is there. Omissions reflect bias, as well. On the Web, see if the page is trying to sell a product or service. If banner ads are related to informational content, beware of the information offered.
- When was the item published? Depending on your area of research, the currency of information effects the content. On the Web, look for dates of recent updates. Check to see if there are many dead links. Also, be aware that the text on a Web site could have been written many years ago. Look for dates of the original publication as well as the dates it was placed on the Web.
- Is the information accurate? Does it fit with what you already know and what you find in other sources? Is the bibliography accurate and complete?
- Where did the author get his/her information? Is the material based on primary research? (That is, did they conduct their own experiment, observe an event, or conduct a survey or other kind of primary research?) If the material is based on other's research, look at the bibliography to see who they cite.