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COMM 110: Quantitative Research Methods: Evaluate Web Resources

Research guide for students taking COMM 110

Quick Links

Evaluating Web Pages

Criteria to Evaluate Web Sites

If you do searches in GOOGLE or another search engine to find information on your topic, remember that you will have to evaluate each site to see if the information is reliable. To evaluate web sites, use the following checklist:

Credibility Is there an author listed? _____
Does the author cite sources or a bibliography? _____
Does the author cite formal credentials or experience? _____
Can you contact the author? _____
Do you know who sponsored the page? Are they reputable? _____
Bias
Does the site present information in an objective manner? _____
Are all sides of an issue represented, or is this site biased? _____
Audience
Is the level of the website appropriate to your needs? _____
Does the content cover several topics minimally or one topic in detail? _____
Accuracy Does the site provide documentation for the information provided? _____
Does the site provide information that contradicts other sources? _____
Does the site include an explanation of its research methods? _____
Currency
Was the information recently published? _____
Has it been updated or revised? _____
Relevance Does the information add to or support your research? _____
Does the site provide additional links that are also useful? _____
Does the page provide more or less information than you need? _____


For more information on how to evaluate web sites, go to this tutorial from UC Berkeley.

The first step in evaluating web sites is often to determine what type of web sites you are looking at. It will help you decide if you will use the information for a research paper.


Types of Web Sites

Remember that people create web sites for different purposes. It' s useful to determine the type and purpose of a web site in order to decide if you will use the information for a research paper. The more important type of web pages are:

  • Advocacy Web Page: An advocacy web page is one sponsored by an organization attempting to influence public opinion. The URL of the page often ends in .org. Always check for a link describing the goals or the mission of the organization. See for example the web site of the Move On organization.
  • Business/Marketing Web Page: A business/marketing web page is sponsored by a commercial enterprise, usually trying to sell or promote products and services. The URL often ends in .com. Always ask yourself is the company is legitimate and if it is clear what they are trying to sell. See for example the Melatonin.com web site.
  • Informational Web Page: An informational web page is one whose main purpose is to provide factual or in-depth information on a topic, or present the result of research. Always ask yourself who is the audience for the page and what level of information is provided. See for example this governmental page providing information on the v-chip.
  • News Web Page: A news web page is one whose purpose is to provide extremely current information. See for example the CNN site.
  • Personal Web Page: A personal web page is one published by an individual who may or may not be affiliated to an organization or institution. A tilde (~) is often embedded somewhere in the URL of the page. Always look if there is information provided regarding the qualification of the person for writing on the topic.