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Geography: Evaluating websites and online information

Electronic Resources

Evaluating internet sites

There is no central authority to check the quality or accuracy of information found on the World Wide Web. Some sites are created by experts; for example the LibGuide website has been created by professional librarians; but the vast majority are created by non-experts. It is therefore up to you to evaluate a site before you use it as an information source. Ask the following questions about a site and even when all seems to check out - remain skeptical !

WHO has written the documents or provided the data?

Check the authority and accuracy of the site to determine the credibility and reliability of the information.

  • Who is the author / publisher of the site?
  • Is there an email address or links to the author?
  • Can author credentials / qualifications be verified?

WHERE is the site located?

The URL (web address) provide clues to the authorship and authority of the site. For example:

  • .com       - commercial address
  • .ac /.edu -  academic institution
  • .gov        -  government agency
  • .org         - non-profit organization
  • .za          -  country-specific site (e.g. South Africa)
  • .net         - for network providers but is commercial as well

WHAT are the contents and characteristics of the information?

Look carefully at the content of the site to check if the information is mostly subjective (biased or opinionated); objective (factual) or both.

  • Who sponsors the page?
  • Distinguish between promotion, advertising and serious content
  • Check the links provided, e.g. a 'Mission Statement' or 'About our Organization' link that might detail the purpose of the site.
  • Check for spelling mistakes and factual errors

WHEN was the site updated?

Check the currency of the site and whether it is updated on a regular basis.

  • Are all the links intact?
  • Is the site regularly maintained?

HOW helpful is the overall design of the site?

How well has the site been designed and how easy is it to use?

  • Is it well designed and organised?
  • Easy to read and navigate?
  • Help screens available?

Now that you have learnt how to evaluate a site, test your skills by evaluating the following website:

Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Division

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