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Evaluation of Fake News: Website Evaluation

 

Evaluating Websites

Remember the following

  1. Authority
  2. Responsibility
  3. Purpose
  4. Quality
  5. Evaluate

Authority

Who authored (wrote) the site?

  • Look for an “About” or “More about the Author” link at the top, bottom or sidebar of the web page.
  • Some pages will have a corporate author rather than a single person as an author.
  • Does the author provide his or her credentials? 
  • Does s/he cite his her/his type of expertise on the subject?
  • Does s/he indicate her education or experience on the topic?
  • She you trust her/his knowledge on the subject?

Try doing a Google search on the author.

  • What kind of websites are associated with her/his name?
  • Do commercial websites come up?
  • Do her/his associates give you clues to particular biases the author may have.
  • Be careful, many people share the same name.

 

If no information about author(s) of the page is provided, be suspicious. 

Responsibility

Who published the site?

Look at the domain name of the website to learn who is hosting the site. For instance, the Mount Saint Mary's Univerisity Library website is: http://www..msmary/library. The domain name is “msmary.edu”. That tells you that the library’s website is hosted by the Mount's library. Do a search on the domain name at http://www.whois.sc/. This site provides information about the owners of registered domain names. 

Don't ignore the suffix of the domain name.  Usually, these are descriptive of the type of entity hosts the site. It is possible for sites to have misleading  domains. See the  domain names box to see what suffixes usually mean.

 

Evaluation Rules of Thumb

  • Do not assume that because something has been published in a book, periodical, or website that it is a reputable, reliable source.
  • You must make a deliberate decision about the relevance and quality of the information especially if you are evaluating an Internet site. 

 

Quality

What is the quality of information provided on the website?

Timelines: When was the website first published? Is it regularly updated? Check for the dates at each page on the site.

  • Publication dates are acceptable depending on the information you are looking for.  Statistics, current events, science, technology and healthcare are probably most valuable with the most up-to-the date information. historical facts and dates may not matter if the site is a little older.

Citations: Websites that cite their sources are considered more reliable. It shows that the author has done his/her homework.

Links on the site: Are links on the site to reputable sites? 

  • Is the website being cited by others?
  • Go to a browser like www.google.com or www.internet explorer.  In the search box type "link[name of your website] with no space after the colon, i.e.:
  • link:http://www.msmary.edu/phillipslibrary
  • The results will contain websites that link to your site.  Does it include reputable, well-known sites?

 

Purpose

What is the main purpose of the site? Why did the author write it and the publisher post it?
Is it.....

  • to sell a product?
  • as a personal hobby?
  • as a public service?
  • to further scholarship on a topic?
  • to provide general information on a topic?
  • to persuade you of a particular point of view?

To find out: Scan the homepage of the site.  

  • Is it cluttered with advertising?
  • Does the page appear to be professionally written?

Who is the intended audience?

  • Scholars or the general public?
  • Which age group is it written for?
  • Is it aimed at persons from a particular area?
  • Is it aimed at people of a particular profession, occupation or political affiliation?

Is the writing trying to persuade you to buy something or some idea?

 

Evaluate

How does it all add up?

  • Compare the information you’ve gathered about your website to your information needs. Does this website provide an appropriateness of fit (not all websites will work for all purposes). A website that is fine for finding general information on a disease may not work for a nursing student’s paper.
  • If you are in doubt, ask your instructor or a librarian for help.
  • Print out the Checklist in the next box and use it to evaluate your website.

 

Domain Names

Do you know what each domain means?

.GOV= government

.ORG= organization

.COM= commercial

.CO= company, commercial

.EDU= higher education

.BIZ= business

.MIL= military

.NET= network

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