All sources should be evaluated but you must be particularly careful when using websites for information. Anyone can publish something on the web so there is a wide range in the quality of information. Below are some of the things you need to look for or pay attention to when evaluating online sources.
- Are facts given? Are they accurate? Can they be verified?
- Are the facts documented? Is there a reference list or bibliography?
- Is there objectivity, consistency and fairness throughout?
- Is the information comprehensive?
- Who wrote the page? Is this person’s contact information available?
- Are the author’s qualifications or credentials listed? Is this person qualified to write this document?
- Who or what organization or institution is responsible for the site? Is there a sponsoring organization or association?
- Is there a date on the page?
- Do the links work?
- Recent date ≠ current information
- Some information ages quickly; in other cases older information is still valid
- Is the information relevant and informative?
- Is it detailed?
- Free of grammatical and/or spelling errors?
- Free of offensive and/or vulgar language?
- What is the purpose of the site – education, advocacy, commerce, etc.?
- Who is the target audience – professionals, consumers, both?
- Is the language used appropriate for the target audience?
- What are the goals and objectives of the site?
- Is there a particular point of view being presented?
- Is there advertising?
- Is there a real or potential benefit to the author(s) in providing less than accurate information?
- Is there an indication of potential conflict of interests?
- Any evidence of favoritism or prejudice based on gender, age, ethnicity, race, ancestry, place of birth, culture of origin, creed, religious/spiritual beliefs/affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, physical, mental, emotional or learning disability?