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ART 105 - Fundamentals of Two-Dimensional Design - Brandt: Evaluating Sources

The ABCD of Website Evaluation Chart

The ABCD of Website Evaluation: Evaluating Webpages for Research 

ABCD evaluation method

Click for questions to ask yourself


  • What should I look for?
    • Who is the author?
    • What are the author’s credentials?
    • Does the author have expertise in the subject?
    • Is the author associated with a reputable organization?
    • Is contact information provided?
  • Why should I evaluate? 
    • Websites are created for different reasons: advocacy, commercial, informational, marketing, personal.
    • There are no web standards for who can publish information on a subject.
    • If you can’t determine the author, how do you know the author is a whiz on the subject?
  • How can I tell?
    • Check the top and bottom of the web page for clues.
    • Look at the domain endings, is the site: .com? .edu? .gov? .mil? .net? .org?
    • Is this page linked to a main website for the author or organization?
    • Look for a page explaining the mission or philosophy of the author or organization.
    • Ask a Reference Librarian about the author/organization.


  • What should I look for?
    • Is the information balanced?
    • Is it more opinion than fact?
    • Is the page a presentation of facts or designed to sway opinion?
    • Is a product, service, or idea being sold?
  • Why should I evaluate? 
    • Goals and objectives of the author may not be clearly stated.
    • The web may serve as a place to make someone’s opinion public.
  • How can I tell?
    • Read through and scan the page to determine the viewpoint.
    • Is there a page explaining who the author is and his or her mission or philosophy?
    • Ask a Reference Librarian if the information is objective.


  • What should I look for?
    • When was the page last updated?
    • Are there any broken/dead links?
    • Is the information consistent with your knowledge of the subject?
  • Why should I evaluate? 
    • Pages with broken/dead links may not be regularly updated.
    • It is important to have some knowledge of the subject to know if the content is out-of-date.
    • Your research may require the most up-to-date information.
  • How can I tell?
    • Check to see if the author attributes information/facts to a particular year.
    • Look at the bottom of the page to see if the author has included a date.
    • The copyright year will tell you when the site license was last updated.
    • Ask a Reference Librarian to verify when it was last updated.


  • What should I look for?
    • Is information documented with references?
    • Are facts supported with evidence?
    • If statistics are provided, what is the source?
    • Is the page free of spelling mistakes or other obvious mistakes?
  • Why should I evaluate? 
    • Anyone can publish anything on the web.
    • Unlike traditional print resources, web resources rarely have editors or fact-checkers.
    • There are no web standards to ensure accuracy.
  • How can I tell?
    • Verify that the facts, references, or statistics have an identified source.
    • Do you see any errors or misspellings?
    • Ask a Reference Librarian if the information you have found can be obtained from a more reliable source.

Evaluating Sources--Rhetorical Triangle

Evaluating Sources, start by asking three questions...


1. AuthorWho is the author?

  • What do you know about the author?

  • Is he/she trustworthy? Why?

  • What else has he/she written on the subject?  

2. Audience: Who is the intended audience?

  • Who is the target audience?

  • What is the audience’s interest in the subject?

  • What does the audience know about the subject?

  • How would the audience feel about the subject?

3. Purpose: What is the purpose?

  • What specific information is the writer conveying?

  • Is the writer trying to convince you of something?

  • Is the writer trying to sell something?

*Adapted from the University Writing Program Northern Arizona University

Rhetorical Triangle

Rhetorical Triangle: Author; Audience; Purpose