|The World-Wide Web (WWW) and other Internet resources offer
the student researcher a wonderful variety of materials to investigate, but like any other
source, print or electronic, WWW materials must be evaluated before they are incorporated
into a research project and properly documented when they are
|The quality and usefulness of an electronic source must be
assessed in the same way as print or other sources, and student researchers must evaluate
both the page and its content for evidence of the author or compiler's assumptions,
biases, and sources. Keep a few guidelines in mind:
||Is the web page associated with a respectable organization, like a
university or professional society, or does it appear to be a personal web page? Personal
web pages are often useful, and well-known organizations are not immune from pronounced
bias, but it's important to distinguish informed and reasoned opinion from polemical and
||Does the web page list its authors or compilers; are they accessible
through the site via email; and does the page fully and professionally acknowledge its own
sources (both print and electronic)? Generally speaking, more conscientious web authors
will acknowledge their intellectual debts clearly.
||Is the content sensible and balanced, thorough and accurate? Does it
seem skewed to any particular perspective? Is the tone of the presentation measured and
balanced? Always assess the value of a web site's content as you would any other source.
||Has the site been updated recently and does it evidence consistent
revision or does it look to be outdated and untended? A seriously out-of-date web page
(say, a year or so) has probably been superseded by something more current.
|Design & Execution
||Is the page well designed and easily navigated? Is the page free of
noticeable errors in spelling, etc.? Good design does not necessarily equate to good
content or vice versa, but poor execution might indicate other lapses in content.
||Does the page link to other reputable sites and do other reputable
sites link to it? Likewise, are the links current? Or is the page filled with advertising
banners and other distracting material? The links included in a page can indicate a
great deal about the page's value and the compiler's purposes.
||Has the page been recognized by other reputable organizations or
received their "seals of approval," like "Top 1000 Web Sites" or
"Top 5% of Web Sites"? Generally, better sites are quickly recognized by other
Internet users, and a number of groups are now monitoring and evaluating the usefulness of
individual web sites.
|Several excellent websites feature important critical
discussion of the promise and peril of Internet research:
Evaluating Web Resources,
by Jan Alexander and Marsha Tate, Widener University.