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BIO 105IN - Northwest - Environmental Biology (Katcher): Website Evaluation

This guide is intended as a starting place for researchers, pointing to tools for finding books, articles, and other related information. Please use the tabs below to locate frequently recommended resources. Topics covered include ecosystem structure and

What's wrong with this website?

Go to the following website:
 
What's wrong with this website? 
How can you tell?

Website Evaluation Handout

Evaluating Websites Exercise

Get some practice at evaluating websites using the criteria in the left-side column.  Which of these sites do you think would be useful for academic research?

The ABC Test: Guidelines for Evaluating Websites

When evaluating websites or any other information sources, use the following ABC Test to help evaluate the information you find:

Authority: The source of the information.

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?   Examples:
    • .com - commercial site
    • .edu - school or university site
    • .gov - government website
    • .org - for-profit or non-profit organization site
Note: Domains such as .ca (Canada) or .au (Australia) are country-specific domain names. It is not easy to tell what type of organization is behind these domain names so use some of the other criteria to evaluate the website. 
 

 BiasThe reason the information exists.

  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?

Credibility: The reliability, correctness, and believability of the content.

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Who or what are the sources of the information?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?​
  • When was the information published or posted?​
  • Has the information been revised or updated?​
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?​
  • Are the links functional?​
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

Domain Names

The URL for a website can tell you a lot about the purpose of a webpage. 

.com = commercial site

.net =network provider

.org =organization

.edu =education - school or university

.mil = military website

.gov = government website

.com, .net, and .org sites are less regulated, meaning anyone can register for a website with that domain.  .edu, .mil, and .gov sites are MORE REGULATED, and tend to be more reliable. 

Manipulating the Message

What about Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is a free, online encyclopedia that contains articles about nearly any topic.  It may be tempting to use it as a resource for an assignment, but keep in mind that most instructors WILL NOT accept wikipedia as an acceptable source. 

Why?  Wikipedia entries can be edited by anyone that has access to a computer and creates a wikipedia account.  This often compromises the quality of information that may appear in Wikipedia entries. The last thing you want to do is to use false information in your assignments.