How to evaluate website content

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Do you sometimes carry out research online for academic purposes? If so, how do you know the information available online is reliable? The Internet often contains information which are untested. Therefore, you should evaluate online content before using them for study purposes.

How to evaluate website content

According to the University of Edinburgh (2017) there are a number of criteria you need to consider before using information for your assignments. Audience, authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, and the URL are the main criteria. You need to ask a number of questions concerning each criterion which should help you decide whether you can use website content.

Audience

Who is the target audience? A website may target school children; therefore, information available there may tend to be easy and simplified. Some sites may target college and university students and provide analysis on a wide variety of topics. So, look for a website that suits your academic needs. However, it does not mean that you must not read website content at all that target audience lower or higher your level. But the question is ‘does it meet your research needs’?

Authority

Needless to say that credibility of writers is very important. Qualifications, experience, profession, and publications demonstrate if a writer is credible or otherwise. A writer does not always have to be an expert in his/her field; however, adequate information need to be there to establish that the writer has some kind of authority to write on the subject.

Accuracy

An article with multiple spelling errors and grammatical incorrectness raises concerns. In fact, you should look for articles which are well-written; have no major grammatical errors; and present facts. You should also check if the articles are appropriately referenced.

Objectivity

Academic writings need to be objective and devoid of biased contents. A writer must consider a topic from different perspectives to draw satisfactory conclusions. There are many sites on the Internet which simply promote personal opinions and biased viewpoints. You need to strongly question the purposes of their writings before using them in your writing.

Currency

A good website will show publication dates of the contents. It is worth noting that currency is all about context, and you need to decide on to what extent the publication date of an article impacts on your research. For example, you may look for recently published articles for one assignment, while 20 years old ones for others.

URL (Uniform Resource Locator)

URL can tell you a lot of things as well. URL is basically the web address of a site.  A domain name often provides readers with clues about the demographic origin, and the nature of a website. Usually, popular educational sites use domain suffixes such as ‘.ac.uk’, ‘.net’, ‘.com’ and ‘.edu’.

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To conclude, it is certainly important to use information for your study purposes from appropriate and reliable sources. That’s why you need to know how to evaluate website content. Consider the criteria outlined above to explore website content.  The Internet is an extremely rich environment containing billions of web pages, articles, blogs, wikis, social networking sites and many more. This enormity may make it difficult for you to figure out which content to rely upon. Hope this article helps you in your search for reliable content.

Last update: 03 July 2020

Further reading/references

The University of Edinburgh (2017) How to evaluate website content, available at: http://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/library-museum-gallery/finding-resources/library-databases/databases-overview/evaluating-websites (Accessed June 29 2017)

University of California Santa Cruz (2017) Evaluate content from the Web, available at: http://library.ucsc.edu/help/research/evaluate-content-from-the-web  (Accessed 30 June, 2017)

University of Leicester (2020) Evaluating websites, available at: https://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/ld/all-resources/study/eval-web (accessed 01 July 2020)

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Author: Joe David

Joe David has years of teaching experience both in the UK and abroad. He writes regularly online on a variety of topics. He has a keen interest in business, hospitality, and tourism management. He holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Management Studies and a Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing Management.