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Applied Engineering and Technology: Evaluating websites

Resources for Engineering Technology Faculty and Students

Quick Guides

Evaluation of Information Sources: Critical Questions 

Determine if and why the author is qualified to write about the subject. 

Explore the credentials and/or other writing of the author to see if s/he is an expert on the subject. 

Identify and explain at least three reasons why this source is good.

What editing or review processes were used by the publisher that helped ensure the accuracy and quality of this source.

Context and Relevance

  • Does the source include information that is pertinent to your own work?
  • Does it clarify or enhance your understanding of the subject under investigation?

The User Context: The most important factor when evaluating Web sites is your search, your needs. What are you using the Web for? Entertainment? Academic work? Hobbies or avocational interests? Scholarly sources are traditionally very strongly text-based. Compare the appearance and the content of an academic journal with a popular magazine.

The Web Context: Some of the visual distinctions that signal the nature of content in print sources hold true on the Web as well, although, because the Web encourages wider use of graphics, Web versions of printed works usually contain more graphics and more color than their print counterparts. Color graphics appeared on the New York Times Web site before they appeared in the printed New York Times, for instance.

Compare the Web versions of Child Abuse and Neglect (NJIT only), Mississippi Review (free to the public), The New York Times, U. S. News, and the National Enquirer.

(sourceOlin Library Reference, Research & Learning Services, Cornell University Library, Ithaca, NY, USA)

Accuracy

  • Are the sources for any factual information clearly listed so they can be verified in another source?
  • If data are included, is the source of the data indicated?
  • Is the information free of grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors? (These kinds of errors not only indicate a lack of quality control, but also can actually produce inaccuracies in information.)
  • Is it clear who has ultimate responsibility for the accuracy of the content of the material?
  • Does the data/information make sense?

Audience

  • What is the purpose of the site?
  • Is the information intended for consumers, employees, investors, students, researchers, specialists, or experts?

Quality of the Page

  • Do the links work?
  • Is the page well organized and easy to navigate?

Authority

  • Who is responsible for the contents of the page?
  • If the site is sponsored by an organization, is this information prominently and clearly displayed?
  • Is there a way of verifying the legitimacy of the page's sponsor?
  • Is there a phone number or postal address to contact for more information? (Simply an email address is not enough.)
  • Is it clear who wrote the material and are the author's qualifications for writing on this topic clearly stated?

Objectivity

  • Does the page appear to be marketing services or products?
  • Are any biases or assumptions noted?
  • Is the author or sponsor of the page advocating particular viewpoints or causes?
  • Is the information free of advertising? If not, are the advertisements clearly differentiated from the informational content?

Currency

  • Are there dates on the page to indicate when the page was last revised?
  • Is the page updated on a regular basis?
  • Are the links updated on a regular basis?
  • If material is presented in graphs and/or charts, is it clearly stated when the data was gathered?

Coverage

  • Is there an indication that the page has been completed, and is not still under construction?
  • If there is a print equivalent to the web page, is there a clear indication of whether the entire work is available on the web or only parts of it?
  • If the material is from a work which is out of copyright (as is often the case with a dictionary or thesaurus) has there been an effort to update the material to make it more current?

Questions Credit

This checklist was compiled  from "Evaluating Web Resources" from The Cheng Library, William Paterson University.

Subject Guide

Raymond Vasquez's picture
Raymond Vasquez
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