Here are a few general tips for evaluating content on the Web:
the author has expertise on the topic
the source of the content is stated, whether original or borrowed, quoted, or imported from elsewhere
the content can be independently verified from other sources
the level and depth of the information meets your needs.
an attractive, professional‐looking presentation doesn’t fool you into accepting all the material at face value
the site is currently being maintained, be sure to check for posting or editing dates
up‐to‐date information is provided for topics that require it
links are relevant, appropriate, and are in working order
the site includes contact information
the domain location in the site address (URL) is relevant to the focus of the material (e.g., .edu for educational or research materials)
Be aware that .org can indicate either for profit or non‐profit organizations.
Note that the domain is not necessarily a primary indicator of site content. For example, some authors post their content on blog or wiki platforms hosted by companies with .com addresses.
Determining the Expertise of the Author
On the Web, it can be a challenge to judge content based on the identity of the author. Sometimes the author is not stated, or a nickname is used. When an author’s name is shown, here are a few tips on checking out this individual’s expertise:
Search a library database or Google Scholar to identify other writings by the author
Search for your author in Google Scholar to see if others have cited works by your author in their own writings
“Google” the author to identify other writings by or about the author, sometimes an author’s participation in a conference or other professional activity can be identified in the search results
If available, consult an “About” page on the Web site to read the author’s self‐description and attempt to verify some of the facts
If the author is affiliated with an academic institution, business, or organization, check the directory on the associated Web site to confirm the author’s status
Evaluation Questions to Consider
When you encounter any kind of source, consider:
Authority - Who is the author? What is their point of view?
Purpose - Why was the source created? Who is the intended audience?
Publication & Format - Where was it published? In what medium?
Relevance - How is it relevant to your research? What is its scope?
Date of Publication - When was it written? Has it been updated?
Documentation - Did they cite their sources? Who did they cite?
Who is the author?
What else has the author written?
In which communities and contexts does the author have expertise?
Does the author represent a particular set of world views?
Do they represent specific gender, sexual, racial, political, social and/or cultural orientations?
Do they privilege some sources of authority over others?
Do they have a formal role in a particular institution (e.g. a professor at Oxford)?
Why was this source created?
Does it have an economic value for the author or publisher?
Is it an educational resource? Persuasive?
What (research) questions does it attempt to answer?
Does it strive to be objective?
Does it fill any other personal, professional, or societal needs?
Who is the intended audience?
Is it for scholars?
Is it for a general audience?
Publication & Format
Where was it published?
Was it published in a scholarly publication, such as an academic journal?
Who was the publisher? Was it a university press?
Was it formally peer-reviewed?
Does the publication have a particular editorial position?
Is it generally thought to be a conservative or progressive outlet?
Is the publication sponsored by any other companies or organizations? Do the sponsors have particular biases?
Were there any apparent barriers to publication?
Was it self-published?
Were there outside editors or reviewers?
Where, geographically, was it originally published, and in what language?
In what medium?
Was it published online or in print? Both?
Is it a blog post? A YouTube video? A TV episode? An article from a print magazine?
What does the medium tell you about the intended audience?
What does the medium tell you about the purpose of the piece?
How is it relevant to your research?
Does it analyze the primary sources that you're researching?
Does it cover the authors or individuals that you're researching, but different primary texts?
Can you apply the authors' frameworks of analysis to your own research?
What is the scope of coverage?
Is it a general overview or an in-depth analysis?
Does the scope match your own information needs?
Is the time period and geographic region relevant to your research?
Date of Publication
When was the source first published?
What version or edition of the source are you consulting?
Are there differences in editions, such as new introductions or footnotes?
If the publication is online, when was it last updated?
What has changed in your field of study since the publication date?
Are there any published reviews, responses or rebuttals?
Did they cite their sources?
If not, do you have any other means to verify the reliability of their claims?
Who do they cite?
Is the author affiliated with any of the authors they're citing?
Are the cited authors part of a particular academic movement or school of thought?
Look closely at the quotations and paraphrases from other sources:
Did they appropriately represent the context of their cited sources?
Did they ignore any important elements from their cited sources?
Are they cherry-picking facts to support their own arguments?
Did they appropriately cite ideas that were not their own?