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Social Work Human Services 300 (Bradshaw)

How To Evaluate Websites

The Five W's of Website Evaluation

The following criteria are appropriate for evaluating information of any kind. Evaluation is especially important when dealing with information found online. Review the following criteria and answer the questions based on the web page you are evaluating.

Who – Who is the author?

  • Is the author's name easily visible?
  • Do you know who published the source? Is the source produced by a reputable organization?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is a biography of the author included?
  • Is there an "About Us" page?
  • How can I find out more about the author?

What – What is the purpose of the information?

  • Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?
  • Is the source free of advertising?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the purpose?   Examples: 
  • .com - commercial site
  • .edu - school or university site
  • .gov - government website
  • .org - for-profit or non-profit organization site

Note: Domains such as .ca (Canada) or .au (Australia) are country-specific domain names. 

When – When was the site created or last updated?

  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • Do you know when the information was originally published and is the date acceptable?
  • Do you know when the information was last updated and is the date acceptable?
  • Are links current and functional? Do charts and graphs have dates?

Where –  Where does the information come from?

  • Where can I look to find out more about the sponsor of the site?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?
  • Are sources and references cited?

Why – Why is this information useful for my purpose?

  • Why should I use this information?
  • Why is this page better than another resource, such as a book or scholarly article?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

Domain Searching

Domain searching allows you to pick what type of websites you want to see in your results. For academic and professional research, that usually means .edu, .org and .gov are good bets.

Commercial sites (.com) are seldom very useful and are hard to cite.

Just do a search for a topic using Google and on the results page, click Settings and then click Advanced Search.

For example, I have typed in edu.

A much quicker way to do this!
You can manually do a domain search right from the initial Google homepage. Just type in your topic and then add the word site, a colon, & then a domain to limit to. For example:

Cesar Chavez site:edu

That will only pull websites on Cesar Chavez that are sitting on a server at a real, accredited US college or university.