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A Checklist for Evaluating Web Material

Evaluating web-based sources is a difficult and complex process. There is an abundance of information on the Web, but some of it may be inaccurate, biased, or misleading. Determining what sites and sources may be most useful for your needs can be complicated and confusing.

Academic research relies on the use of accurate and well-documented sources of information. Generally, books and journal articles are subjected to a thorough review process before publication. Print items in a library are much easier to evaluate because they have already been reviewed twice: first by editors and reviewers, who verify that the information is accurate, and then by librarians, who decide whether the item is appropriate for the collection.

Unlike most books and journals, websites are self-published and are not necessarily held to that same level of scrutiny. As a result, you will need to examine materials obtained from these sites with extra care. Remember, it is your responsibility to judge the quality and the validity of the information you are retrieving.

This checklist can help you assess the reliability of the resources you have found. When researching a topic on the Web, consider these guidelines, but keep in mind that there are many criteria to consider in choosing valid sources for your research.

If you are still uncertain about how well the material you've retrieved meets these criteria, then you should speak to a librarian, or consider using alternate sources of information.

Be patient, it usually takes a lot of practice to successfully evaluate Web resources.

Is the author easily identifiable?
Is there biographical or contact information?
Does the author have the credentials to write about this subject?
Does the information appear to be accurate and error-free?
Do the facts seem to agree with other information YOU have found?
Does the site try to persuade you to a particular point of view? If so, is it clearly presented as opinion?
Does the site attempt to sell you anything, or entertain you?
Is the page dated?
Is the information current?
Are all of the links active?
Does the site indicate that it has been recently updated or revised?
Does the page have a site map or table of contents?
Is the information sufficiently comprehensive for your needs?

Mary Kate Boyd-Byrnes
mboyd@liu.edu, 11/04
HTML by Robert Delaney

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