F: Website Evaluation for ResearchNo doubt throughout the course of your research you will probably use some websites. How can you determine the best websites for your research?
F-1: Website EvaluationThe following lists an objective way to determine the validity of freely available web sites:
- Authority: Who Wrote It?
The author's name and contact information should be clearly stated on the site, whether it is a personal, corporate or agency website.
- What type of domain is the site on? Extensions such as .gov, .edu and .aero are sponsored domains, meaning that domain access is restricted to maintain integrity of the resources. This doesn't mean that there isn't valuable information to be found on .com, .org, .us (or other national) domains, but it is worth considering when accessing a site that isn't on a sponsored domain.
- Does the author list his or her academic credentials? A list of citations this person has written in scholarly publications is a sign that this may be a credible source of information.
- Integrity/Objectivity/Bias: Why Was This Written?
The resource should include all relevant information on the topic and present it in an objective manner. An article written with bias towards a particular viewpoint cannot usually be trusted.
- What is the purpose of the site? Is there any information that has been left out? This may be an indication of bias towards only one point of view. Example: articles about the death penalty that only mention the "for" side, and not the "against."
- Is there a conflict of interest? Example: a person recommends a product without mentioning that they own a large portion of that product's stock and will benefit from its sale.
- Is the information accurate? A bibliography that lists citations for reputable publications is a sign that this is a credible source for information.
- Currency: Is This Site Up-to-Date?
Some subject areas, such as technology or environmental engineering, require up-to-date information.
For example: a website containing the most recent information regarding 3D printing is more relevant than a similar web site dated several months earlier.
- How frequently is this site updated? Is there a publication date listed for each article? Sites offering data or statistics should indicate when and how data was collected.
- Is the information current enough for your needs? Data sources like statistics may need to be very current to be useful -- such as those dealing with an upcoming election.
Still Having Trouble?
If you're having trouble, contact the library for additional help. Please click on the link for various ways to contact the library Ask a Librarian (http://library.wvstateu.edu/askalibrarian.html). Librarians are trained and more than glad to help with your research.