Searching for and Evaluating Web pages - Carson

Using & Evaluating
Web Pages
In this unit you will be learning about the “Free Web”
(web sites that anyone can access)…
…NOT electronic resources from the library delivered
via the web (journal articles from our online
databases, etc.)
And yes, we know you’re already pretty good at
searching the web…but finding last night’s football
score is different than looking for an objective,
authoritative, current, accurate, comprehensive web
page about a research topic.
So let’s learn what’s different between the free web
and subscription databases, and how you can
evaluate and pick the best web sites for your
The “Web” vs. Library databases for research…
The Web
Library Databases
The internet is like shopping at garage sales
or second hand shops. There is something
for everyone.
A general database like General OneFile is like
shopping at Target or Walmart. You can find
information on many topics in many types of
Some web search engines narrow what they
search or arrange by subject areas
(Directories). Likewise, there are specialty
second hand shops that sell only collectibles
or antiques.
There are specialized, discipline specific
databases. Likewise, there are shops that sell
only shoes, linens or furniture.
The resources you find can be good stuff,
but you have to sift through a lot of junk to
find it.
The information that is indexed in the
databases, general or specialized, has been
selected and related to the subjects for
research use.
You have to evaluate it to ensure that it is
authoritative and appropriate for your need
if you need scholarly information.
You have to evaluate it to ensure that it is
appropriate and authoritative if you need
scholarly information.
Can you use the “free web” for research?
The web can be an excellent source for:
• Current news, stock quotes, and facts or data
• Government documents and agency information
• Information on a prominent person
• Information on companies, organizations, institutes,
museums, think tanks, etc.
• Entertainment sites
• Popular culture information
• But – not the best beginning place to search for
peer-reviewed articles or scholarly books
What are some types of web pages?
(and why do you need to know?)
It is important to know the intended purpose of all these sites and what
they can be useful for, so that you can choose the most appropriate
sites from the beginning.
Often the “domain ending” of the URL will give you a clue to the type of
web page that you are looking at – and the intention for that page.
Examples of domain endings are:
.org, .edu, .com, .gov, .mus, .biz
• Purpose:
to provide factual information
• Some URL domain endings you might encounter:
.gov, .org, .edu
• Mouse over these examples:
NIH (National Institutes of Health)
CDC (Centers for Disease Control)
American Cancer Society
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Smithsonian Institution
Carson-Newman College
What were the URL
domain endings for these sites?
• Purpose:
to advertise or sell products or services of the business
• Some URL domain endings you might encounter:
.com, .biz
• Examples:
• Purpose: to influence public opinion
• May be good or may be biased;
you must evaluate the site to figure it out.
• Some URL domain endings you might encounter:
.org (but just because it’s a .org website doesn’t mean it’s a good one!)
Take a look at these. Which do you consider good, which do you consider biased,
and which are altogether fake?
The John F. Kennedy Page
Oxfam International
Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Division
What is Gun Control?
Republic of Molossia
• Purpose: to provide the current news
• Common URL domain ending:
• Examples:
USA Today
FOX Sports
• Purpose: Depends on the author
• Common URL domain endings: .edu or .com (depending on who is
hosting the site)
• Examples:
Dr. Kip Wheeler’s page
Kathy Schrock’s Homepage
• Purpose: to entertain
• Common URL ending:
• Examples:
MSN Games
Google Video
You have found a web page…what next?
You must evaluate the page.
Why ? Not just any web page will be acceptable for college
research, because…
Anyone can publish “information” on the web, from an
elementary school student to someone with an unusual idea.
There is no criteria or review process for publishing on the web.
Information may be false or biased.
The web is constantly changing. New sites are continually added
and other sites often disappear or are never updated.
Some web pages are hoaxes or deliberately misleading.
Some sites like the entertainment ones are not for research!
What are the criteria for evaluating web pages?
Completeness of coverage
We will go through each of these, with questions and
suggestions to help you determine if the page meets
the evaluation criteria.
Questions to ask:
Who wrote the page?
Are the author’s credentials given?
Is contact information given?
Who sponsored the page?
What to look for?
 Author’s name at top or bottom of page or at end of an article.
 Biographical information on the author or his affiliations.
 Contact information given such as address, email address or phone
Is the sponsor of the page mentioned? Look at the domain in the URL.
Generally .gov, .edu, and .org sites are most reliable.
Is the site a commercial internet provider such as such as AOL, Mindspring,
MSN or an online community such as Geocities, Tripod, Angelfire?
Individuals often put their personal web pages on these sites. They may
have a tilde (~) in the URL which indicates personal pages on a larger
website. Use these sites with much caution.
Look at this site:
Questions to ask?
Does the author have a knowledge of the topic?
Does the author provide references or a bibliography ?
Are there a variety of sources? If only one source, use this site with caution.
Is the language the technical language of the discipline or popular language of
everyday usage? What about the spelling and grammar? Is it correct?
What to look for?
Look at the citations, links or bibliography.
Are the resources used scholarly and reputable sources or popular,
reviews or news articles?
Notice the language. Is it very easy or technical?
Do the links used work?
Look at this site:
“True but little
known facts…”
Questions to ask?
What is the purpose of the web page? Educational, entertainment, persuasion,
advertising or sales, informational?
Who is the intended audience?
Can you detect any bias? Controversial opinions with only one side of an issue
Is this information on the page influenced by any advertising or sponsoring agency?
What to look for?
• Look again at the purpose of the page in the mission statement or “About
this page”. Can you see any bias or particular advocacy or belief that is
central to the mission?
• Who is the audience? Children, academic researchers, general public, or
shoppers? Is the vocabulary easy to read or the more professional or
technical language of a discipline?
• Is the information presented inflammatory, one-sided and controversial? Or
is it balanced and covers opposing sides of an issue?
Look at this site:
Questions to ask?
Depending on the discipline, currency may or may not be an issue. In the
sciences, medicine, technology, or business, currency can be critical.
Is the information on the page current or outdated ?
Are the links still working and current?
What to look for?
Is it current in comparison to other resources?
Notice the resources cited. Are they older and from about the same time period?
That could mean that the page has not been updated.
Check the page for the date published or last date the page was updated.
Check some of the links. Are they working? Dead links can be a sign of a page
that is not being maintained.
Look at this site:
Completeness of coverage:
Questions to ask?
What aspects of the topic are covered? Is there any vital information on the topic
Is the material just a short review, an opinion statement, a report of research, or an
in-depth study?
Is the coverage comprehensive or does it cover just a certain time period or aspect?
What to look for?
What aspects of the topic are covered? Is there any vital information
on the topic that is omitted?
Is the material just a short review, an opinion statement, a report of
research, or an in-depth study?
Is the coverage comprehensive or does it cover just a certain time period
or aspect?
Examine this site: A good example of complete coverage of a topic!
Even scholarly information can be found on the
But you have to be very careful about researching
the author’s credentials and evaluating the site.
Try this site to search for:
Scholarly Web Information Sources
under Web Resources from the Library Homepage.
Plagiarism and the Internet
• It is possible to purchase research papers or
to “copy and paste” sections of papers from
the Internet…
• And it is plagiarism and a violation of the
“Academic Dishonesty” policy of
Carson-Newman College.
Don’t end up on the chopping block!
If you were able to locate these “resources,” be aware that your
professor or librarian will be able to do a search and locate
them, too.
If you copy from a paper on the web, you are likely copying poor
quality material, are cheating yourself of a chance to learn, and
quite possibly securing an F for the course.
After you determine that a web page is scholarly or
appropriate for your research assignment,
collect the following information to cite the page:
• Author(s), editor(s), or compiler (if given).
• Title of article.
• If a reprint from a print resource,
the publication information for the print source.
• Title of site.
• Organization, etc., responsible for the site (if given).
• Version or edition of site, if given.
• Date site was posted on the web or last updated.
• Date that you accessed the site.
• Complete URL or web address of the site.