Evaluating information on the Internet requires a number of skills: critical thinking, ability to scan through information quickly, ability to distinguish the rubbish in the information, some at least basic literacy skills, in-depth reading, a sense of good judgment and common sense. However, these are skills which can be acquired with time and experience. These skills can be more easily built up by keeping in mind certain basic things you need to look at when evaluating a web page. Here we propose some guidelines for evaluating web pages that can be easily followed and would give you a clue to how you should approach online sources of information. The guidelines are given in the respective order and it is recommendable that one follows this order when applying the guidelines.



After completing the searching process the first thing you need to do to help you decide on the reliability of the web page is to look at the URL. Look for the following information:

    - Is the page personal? – if yes a personal name might be found in the very URL of the page. If the web page is personal this doesn’t mean that the content is not reliable but you need to think about it carefully because after all there is no publisher to guarantee for the quality of the information.

    - Domain and publisher – here you have to think whether the domain extension is appropriate for your topic. For example, if you are looking for some educational information, you might look for an extension such as .edu. Government websites usually use an extension such as .gov and non-profit organizations sometimes use .org. Be careful with country extensions because these are not controlled and can be easily misused. No matter what the domain says to you, it is better if you look at the publisher after opening the page. The publisher is usually mention between the http:// and the first /. This will show you the server of the entity that published the page. Think carefully whether you have heard about it before and whether it corresponds to the name of the site.



Scan the webpage looking for the following:

    - The author – look for a name and detailed contact information of the author, no matter whether it is an individual or an organization. Just an e-mail in the contacts section is not enough. It is better if there is also a concrete address and telephone number. If there is a telephone call this telephone to see whether this entity actually exists. No matter what you do you have to find somebody who is responsible for the webpage. Think also about the background of the author and whether he/she is an expert on the topic or just a person who expresses some opinion. If the author expresses only his/her opinion think whether this opinion is particular enough. Here you have to distinguish between the “rubbish” in the information – is the author reliable to write about this or he/she is just somebody randomly writing about the topic. Treat the author of the webpage the same way as you would treat the author of a book.

    - Currency (dates) – carefully look on the dating of the webpage. Most web pages show the last update at the bottom of the page. This will tell you whether the author is still updating the page, in other words, whether he/she is still interested in it. How current the information is, of course, depends on your topic as well. An inundated information, however, is usually not to be trusted.


Think deeply about the quality of the content:

    - Sources – these have to be documented in some way by the author (special section in the menu, footnotes, links). If there are links check whether these work and whether these look reliable to you. If the resources are not stated (especially when you are looking for scholarly information) this is no better than just expressing a random opinion. Having sources put some weight on the material. If the information on the webpage is reproduced in some way, check if it is not altered or fake. Consider also the copyright issues – if the content is reproduced and used from another source, the author should have the right to do so. This is quite a sensitive issue when talking about Internet and it is quite difficult to copyrights problems to be identified because more or less everybody is publishing everything on the net. However, be sure to look for copyrights if you need really reliable scholarly information, for example.

    - Organization of the information – here you need to look for the following: the logical structure of the text (what follows what and is this order logical in some way, the text shouldn’t be choppy); main points should be clearly presented (if the author is using confusing language this may be a part of his/her style but may also be because the author is not an expert); lack of repetition of the same ideas or arguments.

    - Use of good grammar and no spelling mistakes – this is more or less self-explanatory. Obviously if the author doesn’t know how to write or express ideas, this will harm the quality of the content severely. Such authors can’t be trusted. This also means that the text hasn’t gone through much editing which again makes it untrustworthy.

    - Graphic and multimedia design – here you need to consider whether the design and visual content is appropriate for the topic, whether it helps the user or not (sometimes if there is too much multimedia it may distract the user from the content). Navigation has to be user-friendly as well. Commands and control needs to be clear for the users and work flawlessly.


Others’ opinion:

    - Links to the page – here you have to take a look at the websites that link to the page you are looking at, at what they say and what they are about.

- Directories – it will be good if you check whether the website is listed in special directories. Read also what the   directory says about the web page.

    - Author – check also information about the author. “Google” his/her name and see what others ay about his/her.



Final thoughts before deciding on the web page:

- Purpose of the web page/author – to inform, to give data, to explain, to persuade, to sell, to share, to disclose.

- Tone – it may be humorous, ironic, outrageous, satirical, neutral etc. Think also whether the tone suits the content and the purpose. The tone can be a key very tricky – it can manipulate the reader even on a subconscious level, so you have to be careful about this so that you avoid being fooled.

- Compare with your attitude towards printed materials – treat the website the way you would treat a printed material. This means that you wouldn’t be too mild in your decisions but also don’t be too harsh.