Evaluating Websites

Almost anyone can publish what they wish on the Internet. This means there is often a lot of material that is not suitable for academic use. Therefore, it is important to learn how to evaluate the results of your internet searches.

It is helpful to build up a structured list of criteria that you can use to evaluate the quality of your results. These criteria could be written as a list of questions that you could ask your self about the content of the website you have found. Here are some example questions you could use as a starting point:

  • Who created the website? - Find out about the author or the organisation – is the author of the website a well known authority on the topic of the site? Is the organisation a reputable one?
  • Why was the website created? - A company's website may be there to inform you about their services/product but the information available is probably going to be biased in favour of the company with the aim of persuading you to buy products or services
  • How recently was it updated / is the site being maintained? - The importance of this partly depends on the purpose of your search. If you want to find a site with the full text of a Shakespeare play it may not matter if the site has not been updated recently. However there can problems if a site has not been updated for a while as there may be lots of broken links.
  • Who is the website's intended audience? - Is this intended audience suitable for your needs? Thinking about who the site is aimed at will help you to judge how relevant the site is.

Useful Links

Section on Evaluating information from the Open University Safari Tutorial