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Senior Portfolio Lesson 1

Using the Internet for Information

Information for this lesson was borrowed from

Topics covered

  • Is it worthy of a citation?
  • Truth or Fiction?
  • To Cite or not to cite- That is the question.

How to evaluate a Web Source - Basic Evaluation Checklist

Determine Authority, Truth, and Motivation Before Citing Internet Sources.

Ask yourself these questions about the website in question:

Determine Authority

  • Is it absolutely clear which company or organization is responsible for the information on the site?
  • Is there a link to a page describing what the company or organization does and the people who are involved (an About us page)?
  • Is there a valid way of making sure the company or organization is legitimate - meaning, is this a real place that has real contact information ? (Email only is not enough).

If you answered "no" to any of these questions, most likely this is not a source you want to include in your bibliography.

Let's move on to the next level of criteria, which is judging the truthfulness of the information presented.

Are You Telling Me The Truth?

Determining Accuracy

Eventually while you are on the Web, you will run into information that is not entirely true. In addition, to determine the authority of a site, you also need to figure out if it is presenting accurate information. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Can I easily figure out who wrote the information?
  • Are all factual claims clearly substantiated, that is, are there cited (linked) sources?
  • Are there any glaring grammatical and spelling errors? This could indicate that the content is not credible.
  • How long ago was the page updated?
  • Is there a date stamp on the article somewhere? You will need this, especially if you are using MLA- style citation.
  • Can you verify the expertise of the author?
  • Are the writer's qualifications clearly stated somewhere on the site?

Once again, if you are not satisfied with the answers to these questions, then you should find another Web source. the next step in evaluating a site's credibility is impartiality, or figuring out what is behind the message.

Are You Selling Me Something?

Determine Motivation

Say for instance you are researching power motor accidents. Information from the power motor industry would not necessarily be the most neutral of information sources. So, in order to find a non-biased information source, you will need to determine neutrality. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there an overwhelming bias in the information? Does the writing seem fair and balanced? Or is the writing overly slanted towards a particular point of view?
  • Is the URL appropriate to the content?

You should be able to figure out from the site address who the site belongs to, since most organizations and businesses put their name in the URL. This is a good way to determine quickly if the site is legitimate for your purposes; for example, if you are researching mad cow disease you probably do not want information from the Beef Farmer's of America.

  • Are the ads clearly separated from the content?

If the answers to these questions raise doubts in your mind about the site's integrity, then you will need to reconsider the Web site as a credible source. Any site that has an inappropriate bias or a hazy line between the advertisements and the content is NOT a good site to use in a research paper or academic project.

Evaluating Sources on the Web

Use Common Sense

Use common sense when considering a Web site for inclusion in your research project or academic paper. Just because something made its way on to the Web absolutely does not mean that it's credible, reliable, or even true. Believe me; professors DO check your bibliographies and if they find a source that does not meet these standards, you will have to re-do all of your hard work . It is absolutely essential that you put any Web site through the evaluation hoops mentioned above before you site it as a source.


Using a research topic of your choice- make it a subject you are interested in- find three websites that contain information on your topic. For each site, evaluate the homepage and website information - being sure to answer the following elements in your evaluation:

  1. The address of the site (URL)
  2. What company or individual is sponsoring the site?
  3. Is the information truthful?
  4. Is there a product or idea being sold on the site? What is the creator's motivation?
  5. Can you easily figure out who wrote the information- can you verify the author's credentials?
  6. Are factual claims cited- does the author of the site give credit to other sources?
  7. When was the site created and when was the last time it was updated?
  8. Does the site appear professional, ( is it designed well and free of spelling or grammatical errors)?

Once you have compiled all the information from the three sites, use the lesson 1 rubric to evaluate each site.

Please click on the attachment below to download a printable version of this lesson and rubric.

  Lesson 1 PDF

  Lesson 1 Rubric