Even when using a web site, you should carefullyevaluate it to see if it meets your needs. Web sites often need more scrutiny than any other medium because it is so easy for anyone to publish online. Quick points to consider:
When evaluating WEB SITES for your research paper, use the following criteria and ask yourself:
OBJECTIVITY/PURPOSE: Does the author have an agenda? Why was the web site/page created?
Was the web site/page created to inform, give evidence, teach, give an overview, or persuade?
The purpose of the author in presenting ideas, opinions, or research may in part determine the usefulness of the resource. Does the resource show political, cultural or other bias? Are opposing points of view represented? Is this information verified in other resources? You may not be able to evaluate the objectivity of any single resource until you have looked at all your resources. Even biased resources can sometimes be used, if you are aware of the bias.
Where to find bias on web sites
On web sites, there may be an "About Us", "About This Site", "Who We Are", or "Mission" page that details causes or ideas the site represents. For example, the PETA site states very clearly what their special interests are:
CURRENCY/TIMELINESS: When was the material written?
Some topics require current information, such as those in the health sciences and computers. Know the time needs of your topic. Is the site/page up-to-date, out-of-date, or timeless? Are there broken links?
Where to find publication date for web sites
Web sites may have this information at the bottom of the page:
AUTHORITY/AUTHOR: Is the author an expert in this field? Where is the author employed? Does the author provide an e-mail address? Check the domain extension: .edu, .gov, .org, .mil, etc. What are his/her credentials?
Where to find credentials for web sites
Web sites, like articles, may or may not present credentials. A common place for websites to list credentials is at the top or bottom of the page. You may have to go back to the site's home page to see credentials. If credentials are not listed, that does not mean that the author has no expertise; but it does make it difficult for you to evaluate whether the author does. As a result, the content from the web site may not be appropriate for college level research. Vague ownership frequently means it is not a credible research source.
ACCURACY/DOCUMENTATION: Where did the author get his/her information?
The amount and type of documentation used affects the value of the web site, and may help you verify the facts or conclusions presented. Documentation usually consists of a bibliography/references, footnotes, credits, resources, or quotations. Resources that include documentation are considered more reliable and more suitable for college level research. Your instructors know that having documentation makes it easier to evaluate a work - that's why it is usually required for your research papers!
Where to find documentation
Documentation is sometimes linked or listed at the bottom of a web page.
AUDIENCE: For what type of reader is the web site directed? Is the level appropriate for your needs? Is this web site/page for:
students (high school, college, graduate)
specialists or professionals,
researchers or scholars?
USEFULNESS: Does the web site/page contain the information you need? Ask yourself "Is this site useful to me, to my paper?". A well-researched, well-written web site is not going to be helpful if it does not pertain to your topic.
If if is useful, does it:
give examples (survey results, case studies, etc.)
refute an argument
support an argument
Follow the steps below to learn better research skills: