Evaluating web pages

Evaluating web pages

Text Version

Evaluating web pages

Why evaluate webpages?

The Internet has revolutionised research. Instead of looking only at print resources, it is now possible to have fast and easy access to the best and the worst on the Web. This may make you think that the Internet is a better source of information than books and journals. In fact you need to be more careful with information found on the web because anyone can set up a web page. In contrast, the publishers of print materials (even those available online) carefully control and check what goes out under their name. The online databases available through the Library, are evaluated and selected by University librarians. Studies have shown that most people judge a website on its look rather than its content. Be careful not to fall into this trap.

Accuracy

  • Who wrote the page? Is there information that   allows you to contact the person or organisation?
  • Is the author qualified to write this page? What   other work has this author published on this topic? If they are qualified in   the relevant area, the information is more likely to be reliable.
  • Can the accuracy of the factual information   presented be verified from other sources?
  • Does the information include citations to   related or quoted sources? Are quotes attributed to specific commentators, research   or institutions?

Authority

  • Check the domain of the site. What   institution or organisation publishes this page?
  • Is there a way of verifying the publisher’s   legitimacy – a postal address or phone number?
  • What credentials are listed for the   author(s)? Are they known experts in this field? Do they work for a   recognized institution? Are credentials relevant to the topic
  • Who else links to this page?

Objectivity

  • Why was the site created? To provide   information as a public service? To promote the ideas of a particular   political, cultural or religious group? To advertise a product?
  • Is the information free of advertising? If   there is advertising on the page, is it clearly differentiated from the   information content?
  • Who is the intended audience for this   information?

Currency

  • When was the page produced? Check for a date   on the home page.
  • When was it last updated? Look for copyright   or update information at the bottom of the page
  • How up-to-date are the hyperlinks or   citations?

Coverage

  • Is there an indication that the page has been   completed, and is not still under construction?
  • If there is a print equivalent to the web   page, is there a clear indication of whether the entire work is available on   the web or only parts of it?
  • Is the information that is freely available   complete, or is it a sample of something you have to pay for? If you do have   to pay, is the full information available through a reputable database or   library?

Analysing a web address/URL

Think critically about the sources of the information you find on the Internet. You can tell a lot about whether an internet site is reliable or appropriate for your needs by analysing the URL (universal resource locator). The main part of the name (usually appears first, or straight after www) tells you the name of the organisation or host of the site (e.g. monash.edu or monash.gov.au).
The domain (usually one of the last parts of the main URL) tells you the nature of the organisation:

The domain (usually one of the last parts of the main URL) tells you the nature of the organisation:

  • .au.uk or .ac.nz = academic (in U.K.   and New Zealand and similarly for a few other countries)
  • .biz = business (usually commercial   entities, but can be registered by anyone)
  • .edu = academic (in Australian, USA and   others; note that this can include personal pages of staff and students in   the institution)
  • .com = commercial (.co.uk, .co.nz in U.K. and   New Zealand respectively)
  • .gov = government
  • .info = information – but anyone can register   a .info domain so be careful
  • .int = international treaty based   organisations (e.g. NATO)
  • .mil = military
  • .org = non-profit organisation
  • .net = network – anyone can register a .net   domain

It is important to be aware of who is providing the information, for example: information on research into smoking and lung cancer might be more reliable if it comes from an .edu site than if it is a .com site related to the tobacco industry, or a .org site from an anti-tobacco group.

Sometimes it is important to consider the country in which the domain is registered (and pages are likely to be written), particularly where this is likely to relate to political perspectives, availability of resources or particular systems (e.g. health or education systems). Country codes appear at the end of the main URL and consist of two letters. Absence of a specific country code suggests either registration in the USA, or an international entity (e.g. monash.edu).

The domain (usually one of the last parts of the main URL) tells you the nature of the organisation:

.au = Australia

.cn = China

.my = Malaysia

.nz = New Zealand
.uk = United Kingdom

.za = South Africa

Note that it is important to evaluate the relevance of the material on the site to your particular context. Also consider if more appropriate or academic sources are available for the same information. The first source you find isn’t always the best one to use!