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Research Process: Evaluating Websites

Evaluating Webpages

It is critical that you evaluate any webpages that you use in doing research. There is no one evaluating material on the Internet like there is in the print world. Material found on the Internet can range from superb, quality information to biased or false information.

Everything on the Internet is True, Right?


The CAPS method of evaluation


CAPS Method

Criteria & Questions to Consider

  • How current is the information?
  • Is there a date at the top or bottom of the page?
  • Often it is difficult to determine the meaning of the date included. It could mean
  • Date first created
  • Date placed on the web
  • Date last revised or updated
  • Is the information up-to-date?
  • Copyright symbol and date?

Tips & Ideas

  • Note: A recent date doesn't necessarily mean the information is current. The content might be years out of date even if the date given is recent. (The last update of the page might have been from someone changing an email address or fixing a typo).
  • To determine if information is up-to-date, compare the information on the web page to information available through other sources.
  • Broken links are one measure of an out-of-date page.
  • In general, information in science, technology, and business fields ages quickly. Information in the humanities and social sciences age less quickly. In some cases, old information can be perfectly valid.

Copyright Date

Examples of Webpages that have a copyright date

Bank of America
Examples of Webpages that do not have a copyright date

Joseph Smith

*U.S. Government webpage generally do not have a copyright date
*Other pages such as Wikipedia, do not have a copyright date, but instead have a date last updated information

Criteria & Questions to Consider:

  • Who wrote the page?
  • Is it an individual or an organization?
  • How authoritative is the information?
  • What are the author's credentials?
  • Can you verify the author's credentials?
  • Did the author include contact information?
  • What organization is sponsoring the web page?

Examples of web pages where the author is questionable:

Examples of web pages where the author is an organization:

Tips & Ideas when evaluating the author:

  • Look for the author's name near the top or the bottom of the page.
  • If you can't find a name, look for a copyright credit (©) or link to an organization.
  • Look for biographical information or the author's affiliations (university department, organization, corporate title, etc.).
  • Look for an email link, address, or phone number for the author. A responsible author should give you the means to contact him/her.
  • If the author is an organization, look for an about link, or an About this site or about us link

Criteria & Questions to Consider:

  • What is the purpose of the page?
  • Why did the author create it?
    • To provide reliable information?
    • To sell you something?
    • To convince you of something?
    • To entertain you?
  • Is the author being objective or biased?
  • Is the information fact or opinion?

Some websites with different purposes:

Some sites that are probably biased in their viewpoint:

Tips & Ideas:

  • Biased information is not necessarily "bad", but you must take the bias into account when interpreting or using the information given.
  • Look at the facts the author provides, and the facts the author doesn't provide.
  • Are the facts accurately and completely cited?
  • Is the author fair, balanced, and moderate in his/her views, or is the author overly emotional or extreme?
  • Based on the author's authority, try to identify any conflict of interest. Determine if the advertising is clearly separated from the objective information on the page.

Criteria & Questions to Consider:

  • Where does the information come from?
  • How well are claims documented?
  • Does the author support the information he/she uses with references to the sources he/she used?
  • Is the support respectable?

Examples of Web pages where the author gave the references that they used:

Tips & Ideas:

  • Look for links or citations to sources. Some academic web pages include bibliographies.
  • Does the page cite well-known sources or authorities?
  • Does the page cite a variety of sources?
  • Do other pages on the same topic cite some of the same sources?
  • The web page in question should have a mix of internal links (links to web pages on the same site or by the same author) and external links (links to other sources or experts).
  • If a web page makes it hard for you to check the support, be suspicious.