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Northwest Missouri State University


Library Home » Articles & Guides » Evaluating Web Resources

Evaluating Information Sources

If you put garbage in a computer, nothing comes out but garbage. But this garbage, having passed through a very expensive machine, is somehow ennobled and none dare criticize it. Author Unknown
The large number & types of Web pages available dictates that
users carefully evaluate & select sources:
Commercial pages include:
  • Marketing pages promoting products or services.
  • Data related to a company's field of practice that is sometimes valuable to researchers.
Vanity publishing includes:
  • Personal and organizational home pages promoting beliefs and opinions.
  • Pages with no editorial review or standards assuring readers of researched content.
Gray literature includes:
  • Pamphlets created by professional associations which may or may not be biased.
  • Information provided by nonprofit organizations for informational/educational purposes.
  • Technical papers created by scholars.
Scholarly information includes:
  • Educational conference proceedings.
  • Online scholarly journal articles.
  • Instructional resources available at educational Web sites.
Domains on the World Wide Web:
A domain designates a type of Web site:
.com = commercial
.edu = educational institution
.gov = governmental agency
.mil = branch of the military
.net = network (i.e., a private Internet service provider such as heartland.net)
.org = nonprofit organization
A domain is part of a Web address:
amazon.com = online store
cancer.org = American Cancer Society
census.gov = U.S. Census Bureau
maryville.heartland.net = Internet service provider located in Maryville
navy.mil = United States Navy
nwmissouri.edu = Northwest Missouri State University
The domain impacts the content of the site:
Commercial & network domains often promote businesses and/or products.
Educational domains usually support knowledge and learning.
Organizational domains sometimes attempt to convince a reader of a point of view
Governmental domains commonly include statistical, public information, tourism, or historical data.
Military sites may include historical data and information about the armed forces.
Web Page Evaluation Tips:

[ globe bullet ] The information you use from the Web should be the most current information available for your topic.
Examples: CNN Interactive is updated every hour. The U.S. Census Bureau provides up-to-date studies and reports regarding United States population characteristics. Other statistics sources are described on Statistics WWW Resources. Current medical information is shared at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[ globe bullet ] Verify the credentials of Web page authors and the sources used in writing information.
Readers should verify that the institution, department or individual authoring a site are qualified to write about the topic.

[ globe bullet ]References should validate facts on Web sites. .
Examples: Blood Sacrifice and the Nation: Revisiting Civil Religion provides links to the authors' credentials and footnotes for the content. The T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project provides entertainment, rather than true facts.

[ globe bullet ] Stay away from from biased or slanted opinions which are represented as facts.
Example: One example of a Web site promoting slanted opinions is kkk.com.

[ globe bullet ] Use webliographies of reviewed Web sources, selected by librarians and subject specialists because they are credible and reliable.
Examples: Many webliographies are linked from the Owens Library Course/Subject Resources page under specific subjects and departments. The Internet Public Library Reference Center provides links to these types of resources.

Print or view a rubric you can use to evaluate WWW sites

Return to Course/ Subject Resources