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Political Studies

Evaluate Information and Websites

Evaluating websites requires many of the same skills you use for evaluating books and journal, but you want to pay special attention to the authority and credibility the sites. Here are some resources to help you develop those skills.

Evaluating Web Sites Checklist

Purpose/Scope: What topics are covered and to what depth are they explored?

  • Is the purpose of the page immediately clear or do you have to hunt for a statement of intent?
  • Does the page look complete or still under construction?
  • Is there a print equivalent to the page? If so, is there a statement describing whether this is a complete duplication of information, or only a portion of the original work?
  • If the web page is an update of a print source that is out of print (or an old edition), is the information more current? Dictionaries and style guides are good examples.

Authority: What qualifications does the author have? Is the publisher reputable?

  • Who is responsible for the page? Is this clear or hidden?
  • Can you determine if the author (the person responsible for the intellectual content) differs from the Webmaster (the person responsible for the inputting or programming)?
  • Can you verify the legitimacy of the page’s author or sponsor?
  • Is there a contact address and phone number? (An e-mail address is not sufficient.)
  • Does the author list her/his qualifications?
  • Is the page protected by copyright, and if so, who holds the copyright?
  • Can you locate any (good) reviews of the page?

Accuracy: How reliable is the information?

  • Is factual information, i.e., statistical data, clearly referenced?
  • Can the factual information be verified in another source or site?
  • Are links provided to supporting pages or documentation?
  • Is the information free of grammatical errors, spelling errors and typos?
  • Are graphs, charts and tables well-labelled and easy to interpret?
  • Is credit given when something is quoted?
  • If appropriate, is there a bibliography or reference list attached to the text or page?

Objectivity: Is the page unbiased; or to what extent is it trying to sway your point of view?

  • If the web site is an electronic journal, is it peer reviewed?
  • Can anyone submit information to be posted? What criteria does the author use to evaluate submissions?
  • Does the author request feedback if you find an error or inconsistency with the information?
  • Why does the page exist? Public service, advertising, profit?
  • Does the page contain advertising, and if so, is it related to the page, and is the advertiser clearly differentiated from the primary information content?

Timeliness: Is the work up-to-date?

  • Is it easy to determine when the page was first placed on the web and when it was last updated?
  • Are there other indications that the page is kept current?
  • If data is presented, is it easy to identify when it was gathered (i.e., census data)?
  • If information is printed in installments, editions, volumes, issues, etc., is it easy to identify for proper referencing?

Structure: Is the page appealing and user-friendly?

  • Is the page well organized? Can you quickly find what you are seeking?
  • Is the page easy to find via a search engine, i.e., is it well indexed by subject?
  • Do all the links work?
  • Do help screens exist, and if so, are they useful?
  • Is the page layout appealing and intuitive? Are buttons and colours easy to read?
  • Does the page have its own internal search engine? Does it work?

Access: Who can access the page?

  • Is access free or must an individual or institution pay a subscription fee?