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ENGL110 class page: Evaluating

Evaluating Websites

Researchers must be diligent about evaluating web resources.  Unlike books or scholarly journal articles which are reviewed by professionals before publication, the Internet does not have such filters. 

There are several criteria that should be considered when determining if a website is appropriate to use as a source for your research. 

Criteria

Questions to Ask to Determine Site Quality

Authorship

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Publisher

  • Can I tell who the author is?  Does the site give biographical information on the author that establishes his/her authority, or provide a link to his/her resume or CV?
  • Do I know from my own studies that the author is an authority on the subject?  (Example: I know that Einstein is an expert in Physics)
  • Can I tell what organization is responsible for hosting this site?  Is that organization a known authority on the subject?
  • Was this page linked to by another site that is authoritative?

Purpose

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Intended Audience

  • Is this page's goal or purpose easily identifiable?
  • Is its purpose appropriate for college-level research?  (Example: A satirical web site might not be appropriate to use as a source for a research paper about election issues.)
  • Is the target audience of the page easily identifiable through graphic or written cues, and is this audience appropriate for college-level research?  (Example: a site targeting a high-school audience may not be appropriate for use in an academic research paper.)

Objectivity

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Point of View

  • Does the page contain a link to websites that display multiple viewpoints?
  • Is the page's language objective, appealing to reason rather than emotion?
  • Does the site's URL indicate that it resides on the server of an organization that doesn't have a specific political or philosophical agenda?  (Example: if you are doing research on gun control, you may not want to use information found at www.nra.org.)

Accuracy

& Referral to Other

Literature

  • Does the document include a bibliography and proper citation?
  • If the author is proposing a new theory, does s/he discuss its limitations as well as its strengths?
  • Can items stated as fact be verified in other sources?
  • If the site is publicizing research or an empirical study, does it contain an explanation of the research methods used?
  • If the site is expressing a controversial theory, does it state that it is controversial?

Currency

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Timeliness

  • Does the page include a clear copyright, publication, or "last updated" date?
  • Do all of the links on the page work?
  • Does the document refer to clearly dated information?  (Example: 'Figures are based upon the 2009 Quinnipiac Opinion Poll.')


Popular Sources vs. Scholarly Sources

Books, web pages and articles can be either scholarly or popular in nature. Often your instructor will ask you to seek out only scholarly resources to complete an assignment, or will ask you to search for a combination of scholarly and popular resources.

Here are some of the characteristics of popular and scholarly resources, which can help you to differentiate between the two:

Other Hints:

  • Scholarly resources often include words such as "Journal", "Review" or "Bulletin", or include the name of an organization such as "American Historical Association". 
  • Popular resources often include advertisements and glossy color photographs.

What is a Peer-Reviewed or Refereed Journal?

If you are looking for articles that have been rigorously reviewd by experts before they are published, seek a peer-reviewed or refereed journal.  Peer-reviewed or refereed means that articles published within these journals are selected by a experts who evaluate them for accuracy and importance within the field of study.

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