Review these criteria to determine the relevancy of information found on the Internet. Guide developed by Jan Alexander and Marsha Tate, Reference Librarians at Widener University
- how reliable and free from error is the information?
- almost anyone can publish on the web
- many web resources are not verified by editors or fact-checkers
- web standards to ensure accuracy are still under development
- what are the author's qualifications for writing on this subject?
- how reputable is the publisher or organization?
- it is sometimes difficult to determine authorship of a web resource
- the author's qualifications/background are often not listed
- is the information presented with a minimum of bias?
- to what extent is the information trying to sway the opinion of the audience?
- the web often serves as a "virtual soapbox" for personal opinions
- the goals or aims of persons or groups presenting information are often not clearly stated
- is the content of the work up-to-date?
- is the publication date clearly labeled?
- dates are not always included on web pages, or the meaning of the date is unclear (is it the date the information was first written, first posted, or last updated?)
- what topics are included on the site?
- are the topics explored in detail or depth?
- web coverage may differ significantly from a similar print resource
- it is often hard to determine the extent of web coverage
Some additional concerns -
- many web pages blend information, entertainment and advertising (it can be difficult to tell the difference)
- some web sites are purely marketing tools
- many web pages are unstable and will disappear
- software requirements may limit access
- the danger of altering the content of web pages by unknown parties
The top-level domain part of a web site's address can tell a lot about the legitimacy of the site
.edu - linked to an educational institution (though this domain can host personal web pages as well.) .org - non-profit organizations or associations .gov - a governmental department or agency, or government officials .com - a commercial site, online service, or a for-profit organization .mil - U.S. military organizations .int- international organizations .net - networking organizations
Look for citations, or some form of verification for the information presented on a web site.
The name and address of an author of a web site is reassuring, though this does not necessarily guarantee authority or legitimacy.