Evaluating Websites

After you have focused your search by using the Internet Search Tips provided on this site, you must now evaluate the reliability of the sites you have located. Remember, anyone can claim to be an expert on your research topic. This does not mean the information is always accurate. You can follow some basic guidelines that will help you identify the more reliable sites. For more information, visit Wolfgram Memorial Library's website.

1. Know the meaning of abbreviations found in URLs

  • Business or News Web Pages: .com (commercial) indicates the site is associated with a business. Online newspapers and magazines are included in this category. These sites promote the sales of products or services.
  • Informational Web Pages: .edu (education) or .gov (government) means the site is developed through an educational institution (schools, colleges) or sponsored by the government. These are used for informational purposes only.
  • Advocacy Web Pages: .org (organization) tells you that the group sponsoring the site is trying to influence public opinion or give information about specific causes or issues.
  • Personal Web Pages: Individuals that create web pages may have any of the URL endings listed above. Some of them may be associated with a business or educational institution but are operating their own site (i.e. a college professor may have .edu appear in his URL). Look for a tilde ~ somewhere in the URL. That will indicate it is a personal web page.

2. Look at these five criteria to evaluate how reliable a site might be.

If you still have questions after using these criteria, ask your teacher about the site.

  • Who is the author or producer? Who is responsible for providing the information in the site? If you cannot find a person or group's name, then that site may not contain reliable information.
  • How accurate is the material in the site? Look for obvious errors in content compared to other reliable sources you have used. Are the facts correct? Does the site have any/many grammatical or typographical problems? If you answer "yes" to either of those two questions, do not use the site for research.
  • Is the information presented objectively? Does the author present information that has no factual support? Does the author seem to favor one side of an issue more than another? If so, this may not be a reliable website.
  • How current is the information? Some research topics need updated information. Look for copyright dates and/or revision dates.
  • How thorough is the coverage of your topic? More helpful sites will include in-depth coverage of your topic. If it does not have much, look for a better site.
  • Teachers: Check out Wolfgram Memorial Library's "Evaluating Web Pages" and Ithaca's "ICYouSee T is for Thinking" for collections of web pages that can be used for teaching lessons about website evaluation.