Evaluating Web Sites - Polk School District

READ THESE Instructions!
The following presentation is intended to help you think critically and
intelligently about websites.
In order to progress from one page to the next, click once on the forward
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Likewise, you may revisit any slide by clicking on the back arrow.
You may view the presentation more than once, and we suggest that you
take notes in order to complete the exercise at the end of the
presentation. Also, we have attached a sample evaluation checklist
you may use for any website evaluation assignment.
Do not move ahead until you READ THIS!
Evaluating Web Sites
It Looks Lovely,
But Is It True?
designed, compiled by and mostly written by v guarino
The Internet:
It’s a big world out there.
Since you were a child, adults were selecting books for
you. Your parents chose
books for you to read, while your
teachers chose texts
for you to use.
Now that you are old enough to visit the internet, you have
to be able to make informed choices on your own.
The Big Lie
There is one belief we must unlearn as we enter
cyberspace. It is erroneous and will cause us to make
poor judgments. The mistaken belief is that . . .
All that we see in print is true.
The Internut
As the internet becomes a more common
mode of sharing information, and
as the number of sites grows exponentially,
you will need to distinguish fact from fiction.
After all, anyone can post messages. Anyone
can create a website. Anyone can pretend to
be someone else. Anyone can try to mislead
Never Fear
Armed with the right questions, you can surf the
net and find valuable information that, until a
few years ago, you could never access!
Those questions are based upon a standard set
of criteria known as the . . .
CARS is an acronym for . . .
and Support
Checklist for Information Quality
Credibility merely means that an author of a web
site has credentials that prove he or she is
knowledgeable in a field. After all, you don’t
want information about your health provided by
an electrician in Ohio who enjoys reading health
guides during his lunch breaks!
Thus, when you arrive at a site, you should ask
several important questions that will help you
assess the credibility of the site.
A Question of Credibility
Is the author’s name present?
What type of extension is at
the end of the URL?
Is there an “About this site” &
is an e-mail address provided?
Is there any biographical
information listed?
Does the author have a degree
or job experience in the field
he/she is discussing?
Is there a tilde (~) in the
address or URL?
Is the author affiliated with a
prominent institution?
Does he/she include a
bibliography of his/her previous
published works?
Anonymity should be considered
suspicious. A .com extension indicates
a commercial site, whereas an edu,
gov or org extension indicates an
education, government or organization
site. An author should be forthcoming
with information about himself, his
experience, and his affiliations. If any
of the information provided seems
fraudulent, try to cross-reference his
name and check his affiliations. Also, if
a tilde appears in his URL, it indicates
that the site is a personal page created
by an individual, not an institution. In
addition, make sure the site is not
created to sell a product. Usually, a
“commercial” site will contain “com” in
its URL. Finally, use good judgment
and trust your instincts!
Accuracy merely means that the information
offered at a site is correct and supported by
other reputable sources.
If a site is inaccurate, its intention may be to
mislead you.
Thus, when you arrive at a site, you should ask
several important questions that will help you
assess the accuracy of the site.
A Question of Accuracy
Does the site contain numerous
spelling errors or numerical
Does it include information that is
contradicted by other sites?
Does it contradict itself?
Is the information outdated or
Are the links functioning? Are
they annotated?
Has the site been operating
properly each time you visited?
Is the content meaningful?
Does it seem like fact or fiction?
You should be leery if a site includes
errors. This suggests that the author is
a questionable source of information.
So too, whenever you find a site that
seems like an ambiguous blend of fact
and fiction, or includes nonsensical
information, quickly move to another
site. Also, if a site or its links do not
operate properly, you cannot depend
on them to provide current data. In
fact, you can go to “File” and
“Properties” or “Get Info” to find the
last date a site was updated! Finally,
any website that seems intentionally
confusing or distracting should be
Reasonableness merely means that the
information, data, tone, argument and
perspective offered at a site are judicious and
reasonable. Remember, your goal is to avoid the
odd and unreasonable world of the
Thus, when you arrive at a site, you should ask
several important questions that will help you
assess the reasonableness of the site.
A Question of Reasonableness
Is the purpose stated clearly?
Is a reasonable tone maintained
Does it offer a well-balanced
argument that provides various
Does it include biased views or
Are there glaring flaws in the
arguments provided?
Does the author share extremist
views that reveal undue anger or
Does the author request personal
data from the viewer?
The sites that should cause you
concern are those that espouse
prejudicial or slanted views rather
than offering a variety of opinions on
a given topic. Even position papers
must offer differing views and
Obviously, exaggeration
and misleading information should
also cause you to be highly critical of
a site. Likewise, if the explanations
are rambling and unfocused, or
betray extremist views, you should
move on to a more reasonable site.
Lastly, whenever a site prompts you
to provide information about yourself,
avoid it!
Support merely means that the site is sponsored
by accredited institutions, and that the author is
closely affiliated with major, respected
Another meaning of support is that the points
made at the site are supported by evidence.
Thus, when you arrive at a site, you should ask
several important questions that will help you
assess the support of the site.
A Question of Support
Are prominent, respected
institutions identified as affiliates of
the site?
Is an abbreviation for a respected
institution included in the URL?
Does the site offer instructional
support materials from those
organizations or links to them?
Does it contain primary source
material and links to supporting
Are the points made proven by
sound data from reliable sources?
Can you contact the affiliate
Web site authors who are credible will
provide information regarding themselves & their affiliates. If they are
trustworthy, they will include links as
well methods of contacting those
organizations. In fact, an abbreviation
for one of those institutions may
appear in the address: the URL may
even include “edu” or “gov.” For a
complete list, visit this comprehensive
site. Furthermore, relevant examples,
data and proof should be provided in a
clear and coherent fashion. The site
should clearly indicate whether its
intention is to inform, persuade,
educate, or entertain the viewer, so
that you can be an informed, critical
The Final
In addition to each of these elements (credibility, accuracy,
reasonableness, support), a site should be user friendly. Its
structure and design should suggest that the author has his
viewers’ best interests in mind. Thus, when you evaluate a
site, you may want to consider the following:
The SEARCH ENGINE you choose should provide more educational and
government sites than commercial sites (commercial sites usually end in “.com”
or DOTCOM, an abbreviation for commercial). Avoid engines like Yahoo that
bombard you with commercial sites and pop-ups.
The site should be easy to navigate.
The site should be audience appropriate.
The internal & external links should function.
The images as well as the pages should load quickly.
The visual elements should help, not hinder, the viewer’s understanding.
The icons should make sense and the directions should be clear.
The helper applications should be easily accessible.
The site should include an index and navigation buttons.
The site should provide a “Works Cited” or Bibliography.
A Special Thanks . . .
The following sites offered a wealth of information about criteria and CARS:
Vanguard University of Southern California at
Susan Beck’s site at
Don’t forget the REVIEW section two slides ahead!
We hope this helps you
develop a critical eye!
Some Library and University
Websites that List and Further Explain Criteria
Online Checklists for High School and Lower Grades
Every Checklist Imaginable
A High School Website Evaluation Webquest
We hope this helps you
develop a critical eye!
1. For what is CARS an abbreviation?
2. What must we “unlearn” as we use the internet?
3. In your opinion, what is the MOST important criterion of CARS? Why? Be
prepared to support your answer!
4. What does a tilde indicate?
5. How can you find out when a site was last updated?
6. What type of tone and what kind of argument should you find at a reliable,
credible website?
7. URL addresses that are accredited USUALLY end using particular extensions or
abbreviations. What are they?
8. What should the viewer take into account when considering affiliates?
9. When you are researching a topic, what types of search engines should you
10. Find a website that you would argue fails the CARS criteria in a number of ways
and prepare your evidence OR Find a website that you believe meets the CARS
criteria and prepare you evidence. List the address and the evidence!
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