Before you begin this essay you will need to read “Evaluating Internet Research Sources” by Robert Harris (Links to an external site.)
Look for signs indicating the website is regularly updated. When was the website last updated? Does the lack of an update date help you to determine whether or not the website is credible/reliable?
Is the website posted anonymously? If it is anonymous, ask yourself why do you think you (or the reader) should trust the information even though it comes from an unknown source.
Does the website list contact information for the author or organization (e-mail address, mailing address, phone number) so you can verify the person or organization really exists by trying to contact them?
Is the author someone particularly likely to be a trustworthy source? Does the website list his/her credentials, experience, title, occupation or other relevant information?
Is the author associated with a respected or well-known organization? Does that organization have an interest or investment in being impartial, accurate, and trustworthy? Does that organization have a financial or political stake in persuading you to trust its judgment that might make it biased or untrustworthy?
Has the website organized its information into numbered sections or provided a means of citation for scholars and researchers?
Does the website have a clear agenda, such as a commercial, political bias/motivation for its publication? Examine the address endings for the website (For instance, .com, .biz, .gov, .edu, .org, .mil, or .mus.) What does this tell you about the nature of the organization? Does that bias alter the degree to which you trust the website? Should it?
Ask yourself if the web author has taken the time to proofread her webpage. Has the author spent the time to create a neat, visually engaging but easily accessible webpage? If not, does that sloppiness detract from the reader’s trust? Why or why not? An occasional typo or grammatical error might mean nothing, but two or three within a few paragraphs might indicate this individual didn’t spend much time on the project or might not be very professional.
Is there any evidence of quality control? For instance, has the publication been “refereed” (peer-reviewed by other writers or editors)? Was it written by or for an organization that evaluates information before publication? If not, does it use quotations from such a source? Are there signs that the writer or author is incompetent, poorly educated, or apathetic about his project?
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