Filtering the Facts: Some Tips for Evaluating Web Sites

One of the remarkable attributes of the World Wide Web is the ease with which anyone can put information online. It is a wonderful arena for free speech. However, since it is so easy to publish on the Web, it is important to critically evaluate a site before unconditionally accepting what is presented. It is especially crucial when using the Web for research purposes. Here are a few questions to ask to get started:

Authority. Is the author/sponsor of a site identifiable? Is contact information (e-mail, phone) readily available? Are they reputable or well-known in their field?

Content. What is the purpose of the site? Is the information presented accurate? Are there obvious errors? Check for bias or point of view. Is the information current? Check for a revision date and/or broken links. Compare with other resources in the field.

Design. Is the site well organized and easy to navigate? Do the graphic design or any visual effects enhance or distract from the content?

Several sites are publishing reviews of Web pages to help users determine their effectiveness. While reviews are usually subjective, most of these sites will also present brief descriptions of Web pages. Two popular review sites are the Magellan Internet Guide (http://www.mckinley.com/) and Lycos Personal Internet Guide (http://www.pointcom.com/). Both use a rating system together with site descriptions. They also make available their rating criteria. You may have seen their logos on highly rated sites. The Internet Public Library (http://www.ipl.org/) provides brief descriptions of Web sites, but does not attempt to rate them.

If you would like to find more information on the process of evaluating Web sites, a Bibliography on Evaluating Internet Resources is available at http://refserver.lib.vt.edu/libinst/critTHINK.HTM.

Only you can determine if the information presented in a Web site is appropriate for your work. However, the quality of that information is important to consider. The wealth of information available online doesn't always mean it's a good starting point. Before using the Web for research, make sure it is the best place to find the type of information you need. Check with a reference librarian in any UB library for help with your research.

For assistance in connecting to the World Wide Web via UB computer accounts, contact the CIT Help desk at 645-3542.

-Sue Neumeister and Lori Widzinski, University Libraries

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