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Tarleton State University Libraries Unit 8
EVALUATING INTERNET RESOURCES
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image of a computer   Internet resources are vast, but often are not reviewed thoroughly. As a result, many contain unreliable information. Before using Internet resources, evaluate them using criteria like those listed below, which are grouped in six categories.

Each category offers a series of evaluative questions and gives suggested ways to find answers to the questions. Links to more criteria are provided after the last category.

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PURPOSE & AUDIENCE
• What is the resource's purpose? Is the purpose stated or implied?
• Does the resource try to persuade, inform, or sell something? How so?
• Is the site a primary or secondary source?
• Who is its intended audience? How might this influence its content?
• Is advertising included (pop-up ads, banners, inserts, etc.)? Might it impact the content or indicate the resource's purpose?
  Checking purpose and audience:
-- Read the purpose/mission statement for the resource, if available.
-- Check the home page for the resource.
-- Read the article submission guidelines, if present.
-- Notice the tone and terminology used in the resource.
-- Note the presence/absence and types of advertising and announcements.
-- Examine the types of information, evidence, and examples used.
-- Search the Internet for reviews of the resource.
-- Check the domain: non-profit organization (org), commercial site (com), US higher education site (edu), and so on.

 
 
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AUTHORITY
• Who is the author or sponsor of the web resource?
• Does the author have adequate qualifications/expertise?
• Where is the resource located (i.e. in a larger site, an e-journal, and so on)?
• Is the work cited in other works or linked to by other sites?
• Are the author's qualifications given? Where is the author employed?
• Who is the sponsoring agency, organization, or institution for the resource?
• What are the agency's/organization's credentials and reputation?
• Has the author or agency/organization created other web resources?
• What domain is shown in the URL. For example, gov in whitehouse.gov indicates a federal government domain.
  Checking the author's authority:
-- Use biographical dictionaries and critical essays to investigate the author.
-- Search appropriate databases & the Internet for citations to the resource.
-- Read articles that cite/critique the resource (and other works by the author).
-- Find out if the author has written other articles, reports, etc. on the topic.
-- Check the online home page for the resource or its sponsoring organization.
-- WhoIs web site can help you identify the sponsor of a site.

 
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ACCURACY & RELIABILITY
• Is a bibliography or reference list available so information can be verified?
• Does the web resource offer trustworthy information?
• Is the information protected by copyright? Who is the copyright holder?
• Does the resource indicate editorial quality (free of errors)?
• Can the people/agencies listed as authors/sponsors be verified as such?
• Is contact information given? (email & physical addresses, phone numbers, etc.)
  Checking accuracy and reliability:
-- Examine the text for evidence of careful research.
-- Check if data, statistics, and facts are documented (and current).
-- Double-check information in the resource with other sources.
-- Read critiques and analyses in reputable sources.
-- Determine if the resource is peer-reviewed, editor-reviewed, etc.
-- Examine the quality of items listed in the bibliography, if one is present.
-- Check the sponsor/site type: academic, commercial, personal, etc.

 
 
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OBJECTIVITY
• Is the information biased or balanced, subjective or objective?
• Is the text mostly fact or opinion? Is that appropriate?
• Does the text acknowledge the above?
• Does the author use logical or emotional appeal?
  Checking objectivity:
-- Examine the writer's claims. Are they logical and reasonable?
-- Examine the evidence presented. Is it adequate and credible?
-- Read critical essays about and responses to the resource.
-- Notice the presence/absence and types of advertising
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CURRENCY
• Was the web resource previously published elsewhere?
• When was the web resource first produced? Is that important?
• When was it put online? Is that important?
• When was it last updated? Is that important?
• Is the information current? Should it be?
• Are current research findings and/or theories evident? Should they be?
• Do links work? Do they lead to quality resources? Are they up-to-date?
  Checking work's currency:
-- Check dates on references, if any are given.
-- Check dates given for any data presented in the text.
-- Compare the information with that presented in other sources.
-- Check the publishing history (date on the resource, notes about previous publishing, links on other sites, update information, etc.).

 
 
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COVERAGE
• Does the web resource adequately cover its topic?
• Does it claim to present results of research and/or scholarly projects?
• Can claims of scholarship be confirmed?
• Does it include information from various resource types (print & online)?
• Does the resource present original ideas or rehash those of others?
• Are significant aspects of the topic omitted?
• Are omissions acknowledged and explained?
• Do links go to other pages in the same site, to other sites, or both?
• Do research results and documentation style adhere to practices normally used in that discipline?
  Checking coverage:
-- Examine the introductory paragraphs and editor's notes about the article.
-- Analyze the breadth of content. Does it meet expectations?
-- Read articles/other resources that discuss/analyze the resource in question.
-- Compare the resource with similar works.
-- Follow links and evaluate linked resources.

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Additional Evaluation Criteria
•  Evaluating Internet Research Sources by Robert Harris, VirtualSalt, Nov. 1997
•  Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask from University of California, Berkeley Library
•  Evaluating Web Resources from Wolfgram Memorial Library
•  Thinking Critically about World Wide Web Resources by Esther Grassian, University of California Los Angeles College Library

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Updated 5/2005