2.4 Evaluating Internet documents

My sources are unreliable, but their information is fascinating. - Ashleigh Brilliant

By the end of this section you should be able to


Anyone can publish on the World Wide Web, so be careful

It is important to remember that anyone can publish on the World Wide Web. This means that the quality of the information you find on the Web must be evaluated very carefully. For a journal article to be published it usually goes through some peer review before it is accepted for publication. With a book you can judge quality by the reputation of the publisher. 

Because of this you should consider evaluating the information you find on the Web very closely. The following points should help with your validating:

With the knowledge above, you are ready to evaluate any document you find.

Five criteria for evaluating Web pages

Cornell University Library provides the following set of criteria for evaluation in the form of a checklist.


Evaluation of Web documents How to interpret the basics
1. Accuracy of Web Documents
  • Who wrote the page and can you contact him or her?
  • What is the purpose of the document and why was it produced?
  • Is this person qualified to write this document?
  • Make sure author provides e-mail or a contact address/phone number.
  • Know the distinction between author and Webmaster.
2. Authority of Web Documents
  • Who published the document and is it separate from the "Webmaster?"
  • Check the domain of the document, what institution publishes this document?
  • Does the publisher list his or her qualifications?
  • What credentials are listed for the authors)?
  • Where is the document published? Check URL domain.
3. Objectivity of Web Documents
  • What goals/objectives does this page meet?
  • How detailed is the information?
  • What opinions (if any) are expressed by the author?
  • Determine if page is a mask for advertising; if so information might be biased.
  • View any Web page as you would an infommercial on television. Ask yourself why was this written and for whom?
4. Currency of Web Documents
  • When was it produced?
  • When was it updated'
  • How up-to-date are the links (if any)?
  • How many dead links are on the page?
  • Are the links current or updated regularly?
  • Is the information on the page outdated?
5. Coverage of the Web Documents
  • Are the links (if any) evaluated and do they complement the documents' theme?
  • Is it all images or a balance of text and images?
  • Is the information presented cited correctly?
  • If page requires special software to view the information, how much are you missing if you don't have the software?
  • Is it free or is there a fee, to obtain the information?
  • Is there an option for text only, or frames, or a suggested browser for better viewing?
Putting it all together
  • Accuracy. If your page lists the author and institution that publishecl the page and provides a way of contacting him/her and . . .
  • Authority. If your page lists the author credentials and its domain is preferred (.edu, .ac, .gov, .org, or .net), and, . .
  • Objectivity. If your page provides accurate information with limited advertising and it is objective in presenting the information, and . . .
  • Currency. If your page is current and updated regularly (as stated on the page) and the links (if any) are also up-to-date, and . . .
  • Coverage. If you can view the information properly--not limited to fees, browser technology, or software requirement, then . . .

    You may have a higher quality Web page that could be of value to your research!

FROM: Kapoun, Jim. "Teaching undergrads WEB evaluation: A guide for library instruction." C&RL News (July/August 1998): 522-523.

The Internet detective

Sifting through numerous documents retrieved from the Internet is one of the researcher's most challenging tasks in the 21st century. The criteria suggested in this section will go a long way towards solving some of the questions of reliability that may arise. 

To further develop your skills in this area, we recommend you complete the Internet Detective tutorial. This is an interactive, online tutorial which provides an introduction to the issues of information quality on the Internet and teaches the skills required to evaluate critically the quality of an Internet resource. This tutorial was produced as part of a European Union project called "DESIRE", aimed at enhancing  information networks for research users. 

Registration for the tutorial is free, and the tutorial may also be downloaded.



Evaluation guide

Retrieving information from the Internet for research purposes requires careful and methodical recording of the source of the information as well as evaluation. The form below supplies a way of recording information about documents retrieved from the Internet. 

1996 Kathleen Schrock (kathy@kathyschrock.net)

Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators -- http://discoveryschool.com/schrockguide/

Are you using dial-in access? YES / NO


  • If so, what speed is your modem? 2400 -- 9600 -- 14.4 -- 28.8 -- 33.6 -- 56k


Are you using a direct connection? YES / NO


  • If so, what type? 56K T1 T3 Other :


What Web browser are you using?


URL of Web page you are evaluating :


Name of the Web page you are evaluating : _____________________________


Technical and Visual Aspects of the Web Page

Does the page take a long time to load? YES / NO

Do the pictures add to the page? YES / NO / NOT APPLICABLE

Is the spelling correct on the page? YES / NO

Are there headings and subheadings on the page? YES / NO


  • If so, are they helpful? YES / NO


Is the page signed by the author? YES / NO

Is the author's e-mail address included? YES / NO

Is there a date of last update? YES / NO


  • If so, is the date current? YES / NO


Is the format standard and readable with your browser? YES / NO

Is there an image map (large clickable graphic w/ hyperlinks) on the page? YES / NO

Is there a table on the page? (You may have to look at the source code to tell.) YES / NO


  • If so, is the table readable with your browser? YES / NO


If you have graphics turned off, is there a text alternate to the images? YES / NO

On supporting pages, is there a link back to the home page? YES / NO

Are the links clearly visible and explanatory? YES / NO

Is there a picture or a sound included?

  • If so, can you be sure that a picture or sound has not been edited? YES / NO


  • If you are not sure, should you accept the information as valid for your purpose? YES / NO



Is the title of the page indicative of the content? YES / NO

Is the purpose of the page indicated on the home page? YES / NO

When was the document created? ____________________________

Is the information useful for your purpose? YES / NO

Would it have been easier to get the information somewhere else? YES / NO

Would information somewhere else have been different? YES / NO


  • If so, why?____________________________________________


Did the information lead you to other sources that were useful? YES / NO

Is a bibliography of print sources included? YES / NO

Is the information current? YES / NO

Does up-to-date information matter for your purpose? YES / NO

Does the information appear biased? YES / NO

Does the information contradict something you found somewhere else? YES / NO

Do most of the pictures supplement the content of the page? YES / NO / NOT APPLICABLE



Who created the page? ___________________________________________

What organization is the person affiliated with?_________________________

Has the site been reviewed by an online reviewing agency? YES / NO

Does the domain (i.e. edu, com, gov) of the page influence your evaluation of the site? YES / NO

Are you positive that the information is true? YES / NO

What can you do to prove that it is true?______________________________


Are you satisfied that the information is useful for your purpose? YES / NO


  • If not, what can you do next?




Can you get a printed version of the information? YES / NO


Narrative Evaluation

Looking at all of the data you have collected above while evaluating the site, explain why or why not this site is (or is not) valid for your purpose. Include the aspects of technical content, authenticity, authority, bias, and subject content.









Feedback? Write to Kathleen Schrock (kathy@kathyschrock.net) Revised : 7/30/97
URL of this page : http://discoveryschool.com/schrockguide/evalhigh.html



Evaluating Internet Based Information http://lme.mankato.msus.edu/class/629/cred.html

Evaluating Web Sites: Criteria and Tools http://www.library.cornell.edu/okuref/research/webeval.html

Librarians' Index to the Internet  http://lii.org/

Smith, Alastair G. (1997) Testing the surf: criteria for evaluating Internet information resources. The public-access computer systems review. vol. 8, no. 3. http://info.lib.uh.edu/pr/v8/n3/smit8n3.html

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