We've all heard the familiar saying by now- just because something is on the internet, doesn't mean it's true. Since it's so easy for just about anyone to publish a website, how can we tell what information we can trust or rely upon? Some of the main points you may want to focus on when assessing the reliability of any website are:
- Authority - Who wrote the website? Are they an expert in their field? A lay person? Is the article in a law journal?
- Bias - Be aware of the author(s)' point of view- have the facts been presented in an even-handed manner, or have they been distorted or altered? Who is funding the research? What organization(s) does the author belong to?
- Timeliness - How current is this information? When was the website created? When was it last updated? Usually, this information is listed at the bottom of the page.
- Accuracy - Are there any factual errors? What about numerous spelling and grammatical errors? Is the article you are looking at subject to peer-review? Have the authors listed their research methods? Have they properly cited their sources and included a reference list?
- Scope of Coverage - How much information does the site really give? Does it provide a quick glance at a topic, or does it provide a lot of detailed information? Ask yourself what the purpose behind creating the site is- Is it an informational website, a scholarly journal article available online, or a blog or personal website?
- Is the information copyright-protected? Is it in the public domain?
- Is the website fully functional, or are some links missing/broken?
This list is by no means exhaustive. Other helpful websites that can guide you through website evaluation are:
Drexel University Library Tutorials - Evaluating Web Information
Justia Virtual Chase - Information Quality