Evaluating the quality of web sites

"This highlights a key problem with the Web. It's carelessly used as a primary source of information, when in fact it's more often a secondary source. Someone reads an inaccurate statement on the Web, quotes it on another web page, search engines obligingly index all of the inaccurate pages, and we end up with a mess where fiction is accepted as reality." Chris Sherman, Lies, Damned Lies and Web Pages.

Who is responsible for it?

There should be an "about us" page, with contact information and credentials. Any site that omits this information is of questionable authority.

Is the URL appropriate?

In general, perhaps a site hosted on a free server might not have the same credibility as one from a .gov or .edu site. URLs can also reveal bias, such as microsoftsucks.com. Use Whois Domain Lookup to look up who owns the domain.

Who do they link to?

Check the external links to see what kind of places they lead to. Are some of them questionable?

Who links to them?

Do an Altavista field search (link::"whatever the url is")to find out who links to them.

Use common sense

Just because a major search engine may suggest the site to you doesn't mean it's accurate. Use the same kind of "internal filter" you use when reading print material like newspaper and magazine articles and junk mail.

"Evaluating Web Sites" - © 2001 - E. Barbara Meyer - EdTech Center - Life Sciences - University of Illinois - Urbana, IL USA

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