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ENGL 102 - English Composition II - Schmidt

Evaluating Websites

Evaluating currency is dependant on your needs as well as how long ago something entered the information cycle. If you know you need recent information, it is important to look for a date and time that something was posted. In addition, you will want to check the date of any references provided. Having new information may be less important to some topics, and some sites may intentionally leave dates out to make the appeal more timeless. Dates can be hard to find on websites. Here are some places you might find date information:

  •  After an author's name, it will say "on" or "posted on"
  • Along the bottom of the page, following phrases like "Last updated" or "copyright" 
  • Look at the URL, which might have a date in it
  • If commenting is enabled, the oldest dated comment might give you an approximate time of publication

Authority, simply put, means that the entity providing the information is qualified to provide that type of information. Just as you expect your instructor to have a background and expertise in the area they are teaching, you should expect the same from those you are asking for information! In order to evaluate authority take the following steps:

  1.  Look for either a name, group of names, or an organization who is attached to the page. This might appear as a byline under the title or on the "About Us" section of a webpage. 
  2. Find out what you can about the responsible entity (you might have to Google it!).
    1. Look for credentials (initials after someone's name, such as Ph.D)
    2. Look for affiliations with a college or professional organization
    3. Determine if an organization is reputable

To determine if a site's information is accurate, you need to check to see if you can find the information elsewhere. Anyone can write a fact on the internet. Some are very easy to verify, such as "Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania", while others require a little more work. An author might provide a reference or link to their source of information, or you can search online to see if other's have the same information. 

Evaluating the objectivity of information can be tricky. Often websites are made up of multiple types of information. A source that is aimed toward advertising a product can also be a source of accurate information about that product. Therefore you have to look at a source both as a whole and as a sum of its parts.

  • Entertain - Exists to provide amusement or enjoyment  
  • Persuade - Intentionally tries to get you to do, buy, or believe something
  • Describe - Provides characteristics, qualities, or experiences related to someone, something, or an event.
  • Inform - Present accurate, verifiable facts about a topic
  • Explain -  Describe in more detail by revealing relevant facts and ideas 
  • Analyze -  Examine methodically and in detail or structure of something, typically for purposes of explanation and interpretation