Your Study Guides and Strategies starts here!

The strength of criticism
lies in the weakness
of the thing criticized.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
English poet 1807 – 1882

Online learning series

Evaluating Website Content

I. The Problem

The Internet is a relatively new and untested information and communication medium.
As such, we need to evaluate, expand, and adapt existing criteria for evaluating content, as well as develop new techniques.

The Internet is a ubiquitous medium:
aside from questions of affordability, it is very pervasive in both authorship and audience. A web address is now an international information and persuasion medium

The Internet can very well be an unregulated and un-regulatable medium.
As such, it is the visitor to a website who must have both tools and responsibility to discern quality websites.

II.. Examples of the problem

Have you been to New Hartford, Minnesota? (Probably only virtually...)

What do you think of the distinguished academic study "Feline Reactions to Bearded Men" by Catherine Maloney, Fairfield University, Fairfield, Connecticut, Sarah J. Lichtblau, University of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois Nadya Karpook,
University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida Carolyn Chou, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Anthony Arena-DeRosa, H

III. Eight basic types of website purposes:

  1. Personal with biographic data, often called "vanity pages"
  2. Promotional to sell a product
  3. "Current" to provide extremely up-to-date information, as for newspapers' sites
  4. Informational to share information on a particular topic or hobby
  5. Advocacy/persuasive as propaganda to convert you to particular point of view
  6. Instructional to teach a unit or course of study;
  7. Registrational to register for courses, information, and/or products, accumulate a database of, and simplify communication with, registrants
  8. Entertainment!

IV. Contexts of website evaluation:
header * body * footer * navigation

V. Five evaluative guidelines from the School of Journalism & Library Science:

Authority Who is responsible for the page?
What are their qualifications and associations, and can you verify them?

Check the footer
for name of the web page author, his/her credentials and title, organizational affiliation. Is the information verifiable?

Currency Are dates clear when the website was first created and edited?

Check the footer
for when the website was created, and when last edited.

Check the content
for news items, indications that the site is actively maintained, acknowledgements/responses to visitors

Coverage What is the focus of the site? Are there clear headings to illustrate an outline of the content? Is the navigation within the website clear?

Check the header
for a clear title and web site description

Check the content
for headings and keywords

Check the navigation
to reflect content outline within the web site

Objectivity Are biases clearly stated? Are affiliations clear?

Check the content
for statement of purpose,
to determine the type of web site and potential audience
for outside links for information external to the website
for graphics and cues for affiliations

Check the header/footer and URL/domain (.gov .com .edu)
to determine organizational source of website and how this reflects on content type

Accuracy Are sources of information and factual data listed, and available for cross-checking

Check the content
for accuracy of spelling, grammar, facts(!), and consistency within website

Check content for a bibliographic
variety of websites (external links), of electronic media (electronic databases of references, established (print & on-line) journals, of electronic indexes (ERIC), and of books for comparative/evaluative purposes

VI. Bibliography (Author, web site, date last visited) related to evaluation:

(Western Illinois University) Bruce Leland
Evaluating Web Sites: A Guide for Writers (25 February, 2010)

(Babson College) Hope Tillman
Evaluating Quality on the Net (25 February, 2010)

(Saint Louis University) Craig Branham
Evaluating Web pages for relevance
(25 February, 2010)
Well developed website with sections on Anatomy of a page, Page types, Web search strategies, and Glossary.


Reading and research series

Reading critically | Prereading strategies | SQ3R reading method |
KWL reading method | Marking & underlining | Reading difficult material | Interpretive reading | Reading essays | Reading fiction | Narrator/character types |
Speed and comprehension | Researching on the Internet | Evaluating websites |
Organizing research: computers | Organizing research: note cards