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Political Science & International Studies Resources

Evaluating Internet Resources

The questions below will help you to evaluate web pages for use as academic sources. Be sure and look at the criteria in multiple categories prior to making a decision regarding the academic quality of a source.

How did you find the page?

How you located the site can give you a start on your evaluation of the site's validity as an academic resource.

  • Was it found via a search conducted through a search engine? 
  • Was it recommended by your instructor or another reliable source? 
  • Was it cited in a scholarly or credible source? 
  • Was it a link from a reputable site? 

What is the site's domain?

Think of this as "decoding" the URL, or Internet address. The origination of the site can provide indications of the site's mission or purpose. The most common domains are:

  • .org : an advocacy web site, such as a not-for-profit organization.
  • .com : a business or commercial site.
  • .net : a site from a network organization or an Internet service provider.
  • .edu : a site affiliated with a higher education institution.
  • .gov : a federal government site.
  • .ca.gov : a California state government site.

Authority

On the Internet anyone can pose as an authority. Look for information on the author of the site, usually on the “About” page. Is the author's name visible?

  • Does the author list his or her credentials? Are they relevant to the information presented? 
  • Is there a mailing address or telephone number included, as well as an e-mail address?
  • Does the author have an affiliation with an organization or institution?

Purpose

Knowing the motive behind the page’s creation can help you judge its content. The Internet can be used by anyone as a sounding board for their thoughts and opinions.

  • Who is the intended audience? Is it aimed at scholars, experts, or the general public?
  • Is the intention to inform or teach?
  • Is the intention to persuade or sell?

Accuracy and Credibility

There are no standards or controls on the accuracy of information available via the Internet. Can you verify any of the information in independent sources or from your own knowledge?

  • Does the information appear to be valid, well researched and supported by evidence?
  • Are the sources for factual information, statistics, and quotes clearly listed so that the information can be verified? Is there a bibliography?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Is it clear who has the ultimate responsibility for the accuracy of the content of the material?
  • Is the information free of grammatical, spelling, or typographical errors?

Objectivity

The Internet can be used by anyone as a sounding board for their thoughts and opinions.

  • Does the page exhibit a particular point of view or bias?
  • Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda?
  • Is the site objective?
  • Is there a reason the site is presenting a particular point of view on a topic? 
  • Does the page contain advertising? This may impact the content of the information included. Look carefully to see if there is a relationship between the advertising and the content, or whether the advertising is simply providing financial support for the page. 

Is the page current? 

This is both an indicator of the timeliness of the information and whether or not the page is actively maintained.

  • Is the information provided current?
  • When was the page created?
  • Are dates included for the last update or modification of the page?
  • Are the links current and functional?

Does the page function well?

The ease of use of a site and its ability to help you locate information you are looking for are examples of the site's functionality.

  • Is the site easy to navigate?
  • Are options to return to the home page, tops of pages, etc., provided?
  • Is the site searchable?
  • Are links current, or have they become dead ends? What kinds of sources does the site link to?
  • Does the site include a site map or index? 
Compiled from: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  and Georgetown University Library

Watch:

Evaluating Internet Resources

evaluating internet sources

(CLIP, N.D.b) 

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