Evaluating Sources on the Web

Finding reliable information on the Web can be difficult. Below are some tips to help you judge the quality of websites.

Characteristics of Books and Journals

Authors, publishers, and publication dates are clearly identified.
Authors are experts in the topic
Authors are often affiliated with reputable institutions
Articles report original ideas
Books and journals undergo an editorial review process before publication.
Once published, the content of books and journals does not change.

Characteristics of Information on the Web

Many websites do not clearly identify their authors or publishers
Authors' expertise and motives for writing can be unclear
Quality and originality of information on the Web varies widely
Dates listed on webpages can be ambiguous
The Web is an open forum. Anyone can publish just about anything, with no editorial oversight
Instability of the Web: here today, gone (or changed) tomorrow

Criteria for Evaluating Information on the Web
  • Authority

Look to see if authors are named, and, if so, what qualifies them to write about the topic. Remember that you might have to look elsewhere on the site for this, such as "About Us" or "Mission Statement" page.

  • Accuracy

Look to see if you can verify what the author is writing. Is there a bibliography or any supporting evidence provided? How complete is the information? Are there grammar and spelling mistakes? Does the site work properly?

  • Objectivity

Look for any bias or prejudice in the information. Are opposing points of view mentioned? What are the author's goals? Is the purpose of the web site to inform, entertain, advertise, or persuade?

  • Currency

Look for a publication date for the information. When was the document produced or updated? Are there dead links? Are new or important discoveries mentioned (or missing)?

Additional Resources

Finding and Using Information on the Web
Use this online tutorial to learn more about information on the Web.
Checklist for Evaluating Websites
Use this form to help you keep track of websites used for your research.
Citing sources in APA format
Citing sources in MLA format