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Website Evaluation: Evaluating Websites

This guide will teach you the process of how to evaluate websites.

Evaluate with a Critical Eye

Information found online or on social media has six purposes: to entertain, to sell, to persuade, to provoke, to document, or to inform. This information can be categorized into six zones of information.

  • news
  • advertising
  • entertainment
  • opinion
  • propaganda
  • raw information

Watch this Checkology tutorial to find out more.

How to Evaluate Websites

Website Domains

The Domain level of a website tells you type of entity that owns the website. A .gov website would have the highest credibility ranking and a .net website would have the lowest credibility ranking.

  1. .gov (U.S. government)
  2. .mil (U.S. military)
  3. .edu (university or college)
  4. .org (non-profit organization)
  5. .com (commercial)
  6. .net (network)

Examples:

Are these websites credible?

Check out these sites. What do you think? Use the website evaluation criteria on the right to access the websites.

Evaluating Websites

Websites must be evaluated with a CRITICAL eye.

  • First, read the URL
    • Only look at webpages and websites that look to be legitimate, reliable, and credible.
    • Look at the the domain.  Is it a high or low ranking domain? (.gov, .edu, .com, .net, etc.)
    • Figure out the purpose of the website.  (Advocacy, Business, Informational, News, or Personal)
    • Do you recognize the name of the "publisher" or "server"? (CNN.com)
    • Is the information appropriate for the domain name?
    • Is it a primary or secondary website?
    • Is it a personal webpage?
  • Evaluate how the page looks
    • Is it free of grammatical and spelling errors?
    • Does it look professionally designed?
    • How much advertising is on the page?  Beware of too much advertising.
    • Is the page up-to-date?
    • Do the links work?
    • Is the information current?
  • Look for Helper buttons:  Site map, About us, About this site, etc.
  • Truncate the web address
    • Delete everything after the .com (.org, .net, .edu) and evaluate the homepage.
  • Evaluate the information: Triangulate the information.
    • Find out who is behind the information presented on the website and the website owner. Are they credible?
    • Verify the information by going to three other sources to make sure the information is accurate.
    • Has the information just be copied and pasted from another website?
  • Evaluate horizontally (laterally)
    • Open up another tab along side the website you are evaluating to make it easier to fact check information.
    • Verify the evidence presented on the website.
    • What do others sources say about the topic?

Website Evaluation Criteria: C.A.C.A.O

General Website Evaluation Criteria: Remember C.A.C.A.O

Use the following criteria in the box below when evaluating a website:

What is C.A.C.A.O?

Coverage

  • The extent to which a topic is explored. 
  • The links are accurate and good.
  • The page is complete.  
  • The information is free. 
  • The topic is covered adequately.
  • The page has thorough documentation.
  • Is the page a primary or secondary site.
  • Good Example:
  • Questionable Example:

Authority

  • The author is an expert in the field.
  • The author is qualified, reliable, and knowledgeable. 
  • Look for links titled "About Us", "Biography", "Philosophy", or "Background"
  • Research the author or the organization.
  • Search using multiple search engines
  • Truncate back to domain name to check publisher's authority
  • Look for it in an annotated professional directory
  • Check if other websites link to the page. Use different web browsers.
  • Google the author "Earlise C. Ward":  www.google.com
    • Example search: link:www.wisconsin.gov
  • Look for the "owner" of the site using a "whois" search.
  • Good Example:
    • The Jack London Collection
    • http://london.sonoma.edu
      • This website on Jack London has an author, an institutional affiliation, and contact information.
  • Questionable Example:
    • Life of Amos Bronson Alcott
    • www.alcott.net/frame.html
      • Click on biography
      • This web page has no author, no institutional affiliation, no contact information.

Currency

Accuracy

  • The reliability and correctness of the information.
  • The sources used for statistics, facts, and data are documented.
    • Check other web sites to verify the information.
  • The website looks professional.
    • No spelling and grammatical errors.
  • It is free of advertising.
  • Good Example:
  • Questionable Example:

Objectivity

  • The information is factual data and is free from personal bias.
  • The tone of the page is balanced and scholarly.
  • What is the purpose of the website. Is it to inform, persuade, or appeal to emotions?
  • Facts are separated from opinion.
  • The information is very detailed.
  • The goals or objectives are clear.
  • Does the author use inflammatory language or make over generalizations.
  • Good  Example:
  • Questionable Example: