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Philosophy

Evaluating Sources

Currency

  • How recent is the information?
  • How recently has the website been updated?
  • Is it current enough for your topic?

Reliability

  • What kind of information is included in the resource?
  • Is content of the resource primarily opinion?  Is is balanced?
  • Does the creator provide references or sources for data or quotations?

Authority

  • Who is the creator or author?
  • What are the credentials? Can you find any information about the author's background?
  • Who is the published or sponsor?
  • Are they reputable?
  • What is the publisher's interest (if any) in this information?
  • Are there advertisements on the website? If so, are they cleared marked?

Accuracy 

  • Where does the information come from?
  • 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?

Purpose/Point of View

  • Is this fact or opinion? Does the author list sources or cite references?
  • Is it biased? Does the author seem to be trying to push an agenda or particular side?
  • Is the creator/author trying to sell you something? If so, is it clearly stated?

The 5 W's of Web site evaluation

Ask yourself these questions when you come across a web site. The 5 W's will help you determine the reliability and currency of a website.

Who: Who wrote it? If it’s an organization, is it a business, school, government agency or something else? If an individual wrote it, is he or she an expert? Is a biography of the author included?

What: What kind of information does it have? Does the information relate to your topic or help answer your question? Is the site a blog, wiki, advertisement, article, or something else?

When: When was the site created? When was the web site last updated? Try and find the copyright information on the page you are viewing.

Where: Does the web address indicate .edu, .com, .org, .gov or something else? This will help determine who created the site. Where does the information come from? Where can I look to find out more about the sponsor of the site?

Why: Why was the site created? Is the website for entertainment use, to persuade you, sell you something or inform you? Is the intention or purpose clearly stated? Why should I use this information?

Domain Names

Is the site a .com, .edu, .org, .gov or something else? You can tell a lot about a website by looking at the end of the web address. 

Most common Internet domain names:

  • .com - for commercial endeavors
  • .org - for non-profit organizations
  • .net - for network providers
  • .mil - for military organizations
  • .gov - for government organizations
  • .edu - for educational organizations
  • .info - for entities providing information services

These are the most common URL endings (or domains) used for web addresses. 

Peer Review 

Peer reviewed articles are found in academic or scholarly journals. They are written by scholars and experts, but there is an extra step before publication: Other equally qualified scholars and experts review each article for accuracy and significance before it can be published in a peer reviewed journal.