The same principles that researchers use to review traditional sources can be used to evaluate material found on the Internet. Consider the following when deciding whether or not to use information found on the Web.
- Is it clear who created the page and can you contact them?
- What are the author's credentials - educational background, past writings, or experience in this area? Is there anything that might lead you to believe that that individual would be an authoritative source on the topic you are researching?
- What is the purpose of this site? Is there anything to suggest the information found there might not be objective or reliable?
- Is the author affiliated with , or speaking on behalf of a government agency, an educational institution, or a respected non-profit organization? If so, the information found there might be more reliable than that found in the sites of commercial sites or Internet service providers.
- Is the author clearly indicated?
- Is there evidence of quality control? Review the content for obvious errors in spelling, fact or grammar. These suggest the data contained might also be flawed.
- What is the date of creation or latest revision of the site (if available)? A site that has not been updated recently may have dead links and the information found on the page may also be outdated.
- Where did the information included in the site come from? Are sources listed? Is there a bibliography included?
- It is always a good idea to avoid using information found in a web page without checking at least a few of the facts contained there against other sources. Errors in some facts suggest others may be incorrect as well.
- Electronic sources that have print equivalents tend to be the most reliable because they have undergone the same editorial review as their printed counterparts. For example, government publications available on the World Wide Web are generally highly reliable sources.
Evaluation guidelines provided by Dr. Theresa McDevitt