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Evaluating Internet Sources Assignment Instructions for Part 1, 2, & 3


The main criteria to check when evaluating the usefulness and reliability of a website are:

Purpose of information

Type of information

Source of information

Author of information

Date of information


Purpose of Information:

What is the primary purpose of the page? To sell a product? To make a political point? To have fun? To parody a person, organization or idea? Is the page or site a comprehensive resource or does it focus on a narrow range of information? What is the emphasis of the presentation? Technical, scholarly, clinical, popular, elementary, etc.

If the primary purpose of the Web site is to sell a product make sure the information is not biased if you are thinking of using it for a research paper.

If the primary point is to have fun, or parody a person or organization you may not want to use it as a reference for a research paper, unless your paper has to do with Web site hoaxes.

If a site or page is not comprehensive, and focuses on a narrow range of information it might be still be useful, just remember to look at the page critically. If a page has a narrow focus try to make sure that relevant information has not been left out.

Websites to visit:

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Example 4

Example 5

Type of Information:

Is the page free of advertising? If the page does contain advertising, are the ads clearly separated from the content?

Does the page display a particular bias or perspective? Or is the information presented factually, without bias?

Is it clear and forthcoming about its view of the subject?

Does it use inflammatory or provocative language? 

If advertisements are present look for a relationship between the content of the page and the advertising. Are the advertising and content connected? Ask yourself if the sponsors of the advertisements could have sponsored the research reported on a Web site.

For example: You find a Web page about a vitamin supplement and the page has advertisements flashing over it, selling the same health supplement. Be cautious and sceptical that the content of the page is without bias. Make sure that the information is factual, not just testimonials of satisfied 'customers'.

Check other sources to verify the information. Look closely at how information is presented. Are opinions clearly stated, or is the information vague? It is acceptable for a page to present a biased opinion, but you as the consumer of the information should know what that opinion is; it should be clear, not hidden.

Websites to visit:


news events

organizational information

government services




Source of Information:

Is this page part of an edited or peer-reviewed publication?

Can factual information be verified through footnotes or bibliographies to other credible sources?

Based on what you already know about the subject, or have checked from other sources, does this information seem credible?

Is it clear who has the responsibility for the accuracy of the information presented?

If statistical data is presented in graphs or charts is it labeled clearly?

In terms of quality control, the world of traditional print publishing and the Internet bear little resemblance to each other.

In the scholarly publication process there are a number of steps an article goes through before editors and referees decide whether or not to publish it. When an author submits an article an editor can assign it to two, sometimes as many as four, independent referees. This is called the peer-review process. The referees review the article and write reports that recommend acceptance, acceptance with minor changes, acceptance with major changes, or rejection. Final acceptance rates are about 30%, and the entire process can take up to a year. It used to be possible to say that in general on the Web there are no editors (unlike most print publications). But now it is possible to find many edited documents and peer-reviewed ejournals available on the Web. It could be said though, that there are few editors of the Internet. There is no system in place, for the entire Internet, for people to proofread and "send back" or "reject" a document until it meets the standards of a publishing house's reputation. This lack of review and revision process means that not all Web pages are reliable or valuable. Documents can easily be copied and falsified, or copied with omissions and errors - intentional or accidental.

Articles from journals, magazines and periodicals are becoming increasingly available through the Internet. The table below shows some of the characteristics of scholarly and popular journals. Not all the criteria will be met for every journal, and there will be exceptions, but being aware of the differences will assist you to select sources appropriate to your research needs.

Examine the web address (URL) for the information about the site:

Personal Website: a tilde [~}, or a percent sign [%] in the URL can indicate a personal webpage, as can a page that is hosted by a commerical Internet provider such as or or even has part or the whole name of the person.

Government Website: There is usually .gov somewhere in the URL. This information would be from a government source which can usually be deemed accurate.

Commercial Website: You would see .com which means the website is for some sort of company which may be trying to sell something. You would have to investigate other factors to determine if the website is reliable or not.

Organization: An organization would have a URL of .org which is an actual registered organization that has met certain criteria. Again you would have to investigate other factors to deem the information as reliable or not.

Educational: An educational website would have .edu in the URL which labels it as a registered educational institution. This information is usually quite accurate.

Author of Information:

Is there an author of the work? If so, is the author clearly identified?

Are the author's credentials for writing on this topic stated?

Is the author affiliated with an organization?

Does the site or page represent a group, organization, institution, corporation or government body?

Is there a link back to the organization's page or a way to contact the organization or the author to verify the credibility of the site (address, phone number, email address)?

Is it clear who is responsible for the creation and/or maintenance of the site or page?

It is important to ask these questions because often we are taught to believe that what we read in a magazine or book, or on the Web, is true. But this is not necessarily the case.

If you cannot find an author or an organization connected to a website be very, very suspicious. If no one wants to stand behind the creation of the page why should you believe what is written there? The ownership of the website should be clearly stated. The homepage may contain a link such as "About Us" which contains this information.

Even if you can find an organization or author you still need to be cautious and make sure that the organization and/or author are who they say they are. This may include further research on a particular author or organization.

Date of Information:

Is there a date stating when the document was originally created?

Is it clear when the site or page was last updated, revised or edited?

Are there any indications that the material is updated frequently or consistently to ensure currency of the content?

If there are links to other Web pages are they current?

Currency of information is particularly important in the Sciences as findings can change drastically in short periods of time. How current the Web page or site you are looking at is relevent because if you are going to use information from a site you want to know that the information is updated or revised if necessary, or at the very least that the page is looked at and maintained by the webmaster with some consistency. The date showing the currency of a site is usually near the bottom of the page.

If links to other Web pages are not current this is a fairly good sign that the site is not well-maintained. It is important to know when the site first existed or created, so a creation date is a good sign of a reliable website

Evaluate the following sites for question 6.


Meat-Eating Dinosaurs



PART 3-Go to google.
            Type in a science topic that you are interested in. An example might be "dinosaurs."
            Choose 2 different websites from the list that comes up.
            Fill out a Web Page Evaluation Form for EACH site you visit.
            Determine if it is reliable by using the scale given on your assignment sheet.

Works Cited:
University of British Columbia Library. <>.
Saint Mary's University. <>.