The first step in this process is to back up and ask the following:
- Why you are looking on the Internet? Entertainment or education?
- If it is education, do you have a clear idea of what information you’re looking for, or will you ‘know it when you see it?’
- Is there another source that might be more appropriate- books or journal articles?
When evaluating Internet information, keep in mind that it is just another information source, much like books and magazines are. The ways we judge good sites from bad, therefore, will look somewhat familiar. A good way to start is the old journalism 5 W’s:
Who, what, when, where, why (and how)?
- Who is the author? Can you tell who the author is? Are they a known authority on the subject?
- Is the author the same person as the ‘webmaster?’
- Is there a ‘sponsor’ to the site?
- Is the content of the site for educational/informational value, or entertainment?
- If the content is one-sided, it might not be balanced.
- Can you verify accuracy?
- Can you find a lot of content (depth) or just a little information?
- Do the links support the content of the page?
- When was the site created?
- When was the last time it was updated?
- Do they provide this information?
- Where does the site ‘live?’This information comes from the address. Let’s look at an address:
This is the URL: Uniform Resource Locator. It tells the search engine where to ‘locate’ the page.
“www” = World Wide Web. This is the part on the Internet the page lives on. Have you noticed that not all pages need or have the “www” in them?
“pvamu.edu” = Prairie View A&M University. This tells you where the page came from. The little “edu” is called a domain. Others you may find are:
- gov = United States government site
- mil = United States military site
- edu = accredited post secondary educational institution
- com = commercial for-profit entity
- org = noncommercial not-for-profit entity
- net = computer network
- jp, ru, ca, uk, au, etc = country identifiers
“library” = this is that part of the larger University file that belongs to the Library- this is also called our homepage.
- Why is this site here? Are they selling you something? Or informing you? Or trying to persuade you?
- Is this site appropriate for the audience?
- Is this the best information source for this topic?
- How does the site look overall; clean and easy to read, or cluttered?
- Is the spelling correct? Grammar?
- Are there a lot of advertisements or pop-up ads?
- If there are links, do they all work, or do some lead to a dead end? A good site should have updated, working links.
Other issue to be aware of
Does the site require plug-in or other special software? This might not be good.
Is the site free?
Do you have to submit a password or create an account?
How do I form my search?
Every search engine has its own language for searching. Most prefer searching terms, but some will allow you to enter a complete statement. Below is a chart of common search syntax or Boolean Operators.
Helpful Web Site
Maintained by Karl Henson, Library Webmaster