Evaluating Books, Journals, Journal Articles and Websites

This guide will provide some tips for evaluating the books, articles and websites you find when researching for an assessment task.

Introduction

There are a number of questions you should ask about a website before using it as a research resource.

These questions focus on 2 areas:

  • authority (author/editor and publisher details)
  • content

Examples of website evaluations

Following are some examples of website evaluations:

Test yourself - evaluating websites

Check the website's authority

Questions to ask:

  • What type of domain does the website come from?
  • Who "published" the website?
  • Is it a personal website?
  • Can you tell who (person or institution) created the website?
  • Are the author's credentials listed on the website?

Note:

  • Government sites use .gov and .mil domains. Educational sites use the .edu domain. Non-profit organizations use .org and business sites use .com. Generally, .gov and .edu sites are considered more trustworthy than .org and .com sites.
  • The name between http:// and the first / usually indicates which organisation owns the server the website is housed on. Learning about the organisation that hosts a site can give you important information about the site's credibility.

  • Look for the names of companies that sell web space to individuals, like AOL or GeoCities. Also look for a tilde (~). Tildes are often used to signify a personal web site. Personal sites are considered less reliable than sites supported by organizations.

  • Look at the very top or bottom of the web page for a name, email address, or "About Us" or Contact Us" link to determine who created the site.

  • If you can't find author details on a website, try typing the author's name into a search engine such as Google to obtain biographical information.

  • Search for the history, funding and focus of the organization supporting the website.

Check the website's content

When evaluating the content of a website, you need to check if it is accurate and relevant

Questions to ask:

  • What is the stated or implied purpose of the website?
  • Does the website address a topic from a certain timeframe and/or geographic area?
  • Does the website have a "hidden" purpose e.g.are there signs of bias in the website?
  • What other sources does the website refer to, cite, or link to?
  • Is the information current and up-to-date? Does it need to be?
  • When was the website created?
  • When was the website last updated?
  • Are there cited (and verifiable) references for the website's information – this is just as necessary for online resources such as websites.

 Note:

  • Websites that inform, explain, or supply facts and data may be useful whereas websites that promote, sell, disclose, entice or rant need close scrutiny.

  • Some websites might seem that they intend to inform the public, but actually try to sway opinion. Be on the lookout for hidden agendas!

  • Check for the presence of opposing or one-sided viewpoints, emotional language, prejudice, stereotypes, deception, or manipulation. Are there possible biases stemming from when or where the website was created? What cultural points of view might be present?

  • To determine when a website was created, look for the copyright date at the bottom of the webpage.

  • The last update date is usually at the very top or bottom of the page. Websites that are not updated regularly may be "abandoned" and therefore the information they contain is not reliable.

    More information about evaluating resources