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Evaluating websites: Home

A guide to help evaluate websites to check quality of information available online

The following is a quick guide on analyzing and evaluating the websites you use in your studies.

Follow these tips to help ensure that you use relevant, good quality and up-to-date online resources.

Evaluating tips

Before believing the information given on a web site, or quoting it in your essay or project, think about the following:

Authority
  • Who is responsible for the page/site?
  • Is it a reliable organisation (eg a well known university) or a subject expert?
  • Can you trust them?
Accuracy and reliability
  • Is the information correct?
  • Is the grammar and spelling correct?
  • Is it complete, or are they just giving one point of view?
  • Do they have their own agenda eg political organisations?
  • Is the information fact or opinion?
Currency
  • Can you tell how up-to-date it is?
  • Is it regularly updated?
  • You don't want to quote out-of-date information
Audience / relevance
  • Is the information of the right level to be quoted in your project? If it is aimed at the general public or school children it might not be!
Feel!
  • Is the site well structured and easy to navigate?
  • Are the links from the page up-to-date and valid?
  • If it is well designed and maintained then you can feel more confident about the information it provides

Key websites for your subject

To help guide you through the mass of information on the Internet your liaison librarian has identified some key web sites. These are listed in the useful websites guides.

A guide to domain names

You can quickly evaluate the authority of a website by looking at the URL of a website. This can help you find out who or what has created the website, and possibly their intent. The main part that you want is what is called the top level domain name, which is normally the last segment of a domain name which appears after the dot. 

For example: www.reading.ac.uk 

The top level domain name is highlighted in bold. 

Below are some common examples of domain names which you may come across. Note that even if the website comes from an official organisation, you will still need to verify the information provided. 

 

Domain Name  Published By
.ac.uk a UK university 
.gov.uk the UK government
.nhs.uk The NHS 
.com or .co.uk 

a commercial organisation.These websites may intend to sell you products rather than provide unbiased information.  

.org  mainly used by non-profit organisations
.edu an American university 
   

 

Alternatives to websites...

If you are looking for information on a topic for an essay, project or seminar use the databases for your subject. These are guaranteed to give you good references to reliable, published information - some may even give you full-text articles.