Searching the Web: Evaluation & Citation
Evaluating Web Pages
"Unlike most print resources such as magazines, journals, and books that go through a filtering process (e.g. editing, peer review, library selection), information on the Internet is mostly unfiltered. So using and citing information found over the Internet is a little like swimming without a lifeguard." (California State Library InFoPeople Project)
Evaluation Criteria to Consider
As in evaluating any document, the most important criteria are internal: Misspellings, lack of logic, garbled grammar, and factual inaccuracies are all indicators that due care has not been taken. The following criteria should also be taken into consideration.
- What appears to be the purpose of the information- to inform, explain, persuade?
- If the subject covered is controversial, does the author acknowledge this? Does the author discuss evidence contrary to his thesis?
- Is the site located on a Web server of an organization that has a political or philosophical agenda?
- Are there links to other resources on the topic? Do the links indicate a bias?
- Is there a bibliography or list of works cited?
- If the site is a research document, is the research methodology included?
- Is the information reproduced from another site or publication? If it's been retyped, wording or content could have been altered.
- What type of domain is the website? educational/ .edu, nonprofit organization/ .org, government/ .gov, commercial/ .com or .net
- Is there a sponsoring agency? Is this an official site of a group or person?
- Is there an author listed?
- Does the author list his/her occupation, position, education, or other credentials?
- Does the author's background qualify him/her to write on the topic?
- Is the author's contact information available?
- Is there a a "created on" or "last updated on" date listed? (Usually located at the bottom of the page)
- Are regular updates specified?
Citing Web Resources
- Citing Electronic Resources: webpage maintained by VSU Reference Librarians
- Official MLA Website on Citing World Wide Web Documents
- Purdue OWL Reference List: Electronic Sources (APA 6th ed.)
Basic Advice on Citing Internet Sources(Prepared by Patti S. Caravello, UCLA Research Library)
- Print or save to a disk Web documents you cite. They might disappear, relocate, or become revised. The copy you keep may very soon be the only way to see it again.
- If the Web document is an abridgment of a printed (published) source, it is better to cite the more complete printed source. Citing both versions is another option.
- Choose to cite signed Web documents whenever possible, i.e. those whose authors are apparent. Web documents from unknown authors or organizations are suspect, and may be less reliable and verifiable than other sources.
- Gauge whether the information in the Web document is reliable by comparing the author's evidence and conclusions with that in other sources you have used and by researching the author's reputation. It is wise to use and cite a variety of resources, not only those on the Web.
- The rules of citation (attributing quotations and intellectual content) apply equally to Internet and traditionally published sources; so do standards of quality.