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Methods of Research in Communication: Evaluating Resources

COMM 4372

Evaluating Web Resources

Evaluating Resources

Purpose

Occasionally, Web sites pretending to be objective have a hidden agenda and may be trying to persuade, promote, or sell something.

  • What is the purpose or motive for the site? (e.g., educational, commercial, entertainment, promotional)
  • Is the site trying to sell you something?
  • How easy is it to differentiate advertisement from content?
  • Based on your knowledge, is the information factual, opinion, propaganda, et cetera?
  • Who is the intended audience, and how is this reflected in the organization and presentation of the site?

Authority

  • Is the author identifiable? Look for links that say "Who We Are," "About This Site" or something similar.
  • Is there contact information for the author? (e.g., e-mail address, mailing address, phone number)
  • What is the author's background? (e.g., experience, credentials, occupation, whether he or she has written other publications on the topic)
  • Does the author cite his or her sources?
  • Is this site linked to often by other sites?
  • Do links on this site lead to other reputable sites?
  • Are there spelling errors or incorrect use of grammar?
  • What domain does the site belong to? (e.g., .edu, .gov, .com, .net, .org)?

Reliability

The dependability of a Web site is important if it is going to be cited as a source in other works or recommended for use by others.

  • Do most of the links on the page work?
  • From your evaluation of currency and authority, do you think the site will be there next time you visit it?

Currency

  • When was site last updated or revised? If you cannot find a date on the page, type javascript:alert(document.lastModified) in the address bar and hit Enter. A pop-up window will display the date and time when the page was last updated.
  • How often is the site updated?
  • Do the links on the site work?


References:

Grassian, Esther. Thinking Critically About World Wide Web Resources. Jun 1995.
Stebbins, L. F. (2006). Student guide to research in the digital age :How to locate and evaluate information sources. Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited.  

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