Sherratt Library

Evaluating Web Sources

  1. Evaluating for Authority, Accuracy and Currency
  2. Evaluating Web Sources
  3. Using Web sources for research

Selection of appropriate information is an important part of quality research. With so much information available, from so many different sources, each piece of information that you select must be carefully reviewed to ensure the authority, accuracy, and currency that best supports your research. Critical evaluation of the information you find is essential to quality research.tically evaluate these sources and pick the best ones.

1. Evaluating for Authority, Accuracy and Currency

Why be critical of information you find? Publishers usually have some level of "quality control" over the information they publish. However, this review process varies so much that your own assessment is important. For example, popular magazines usually only have internal editorial control over what is published. Quality control for this type of publisher is usually based on how well the publication sells. On the other hand, quality control for the publishing of a peer reviewed journal or a book from an academic press is based on it's acceptance by experts or specialists.

Some of the information for determining information quality may be readily apparent in the source itself. For example, a peer reviewed journal article reporting results of medical breakthrough would be accepted as good quality information, and only questioned by specialists in that field. However,  were you to use a newspaper article describing this medical breakthrough, it would be wise to check additional sources to determine the quality and accuracy of the reporting.

There are subtle differences when evaluating different types of information. However, there are three criteria that you should consider with any type of information you consider using. You should ask - does the information source have authority, accuracy, and currency?






If any of your sources do not meet these three criteria, you should consider finding other information

2. Evaluating Web Sources

The Web has made it possible, in just a few clicks of a mouse, to get information from around the world. It is important to understand the difference between information found on the Web and in online research databases. The library pays a subscription fee for these online databases which contain electronic versions of journals and magazines. These electronic versions are usually the electronic version of a printed version. In fact, many of the print versions of journals and magazines owned by the library and available in the Serials Collection, are available as electronic versions on various subscription databases.

For example, Academic Search Premier is an online database that contains scholarly journals that are considered reliable and relevant by experts in their fields. There is a great deal of time and effort involved in maintaining online research databases. Web pages, for the most part, may or may not be sustained from day to day, or month to month. In short, information found on research databases are not considered Web resources, they are library resources delivered using the Web.

Because of these facts, most college professors will consider information from the Web a poor choice for your research. Therefore, you need to take extra caution when reviewing and selecting Web sources.

Authority:  Is there an author or publisher for the Web page?

.gov - Government agencies (Federal, state, local)
.edu - Educational institutions
.mil - Military
.org - Organizations (nonprofit)
.net - Network organizations
.com - commercial business

It is recommended that you stick to using sites with .gov, .edu, .mil, or .org domains for your college research needs.

Accuracy:  Is the information correct and based on proven facts?

Currency:  Is the information up-to-date?

3. Using Web Sources for Research

Determining the quality of information on the Web is not always an easy task. A great deal of money is spent designing Web sites to lure viewers. If you found information on the Web that satisfies these criteria, it would probably be a reliable source of information. However, the best rule to follow is to confirm information you find on the Web with printed sources.

In this class you will be asked to find a Web site on your topic, then evaluate the Web site using these criteria. However, be aware that many of your professors will likely not want you using information from the Web for research in their classes. They will want you to use information from more reliable sources, so be sure to ask your instructor about using Web resources in their class.