Specific Sources: Web pages
At first glance
Caution: Before using a web page as a source for your research paper, you should carefully evaluate the source. Anyone can place anything on the web, which makes evaluation much more critical for web pages than for any other types of sources.
By glancing at the web pages, you can easily find information to begin evaluating them. This information may include:
- Are the pages signed?
- Is the author's expertise indicated?
- Review the points on the "Who Wrote It" page to get more ideas.
Date the pages were put on the web
- When were the pages originally created?
- Have they been revised?
- Hint: most web authors will usually place this information at the bottom of a web page
Page address or URL
- A URL usually looks like http://www.asu.edu/lib/tutorials/suntutor/eval/eval19.htm
- The information immediately after the double slash is called the domain name. It tells you who owns the site that hosts the page.
- Look at the domain name for these clues. To see examples, see "Understanding URLs" in the Finding Information on the Web module.
- .com = commercial site; they may be selling products or services
- .edu = indicates a college or university
- .org = an organization's web site
- .gov = means the site is from an agency of the federal government
- .az.us = a state agency in Arizona
- .ca and other two-letter abbreviations can indicate the country of origin (ca means Canada)
Title of page
- You can find the title at the top of your browser or at the top of the page text.
- The title should tell you what the page is about.
A closer look
By taking a closer look at the web pages, you can find additional information to help you evaluate them.
Author affiliation and credentials
- Remember, knowing about the author can tell you much about the credibility of the source.
- Look for this information on the page you are using or on other pages in the site.
- Does the page include information on how to contact the author?
Links to and from the pages
- Are there links to and from the pages? These links can also indicate the page's credibility.
Is there a list of the sources consulted?
- A detailed bibliography, footnotes, endnotes, or other notes can help you determine the accuracy and thoroughness of the work.
- The author's sources might also be useful for your research.
Writing style, grammar, and spelling
- Since web pages are not edited in the way that books or articles are, frequent mistakes may indicate that the source may be less credible than others.
- Quality of site design does not indicate the reliability of the information included. For example, flashy graphics and fancy features do not necessarily mean good information.
- Advertisements related to the topic discussed may indicate a commercial bias