Sociology and Anthropology

Evaluating Internet Resources

What is the Purpose?

  • Consider the intended audience of the page, based on its content, tone and style
  • Does this mesh with your needs?

Consider the Source

  • Web search engines often amass vast results, from memos to scholarly documents
  • Many of the resulting items will be peripheral or useless for your research

Who is the Source?

  • Is the author/producer of the web page identifiable?
  • Does the author/producer have expertise on the subject as indicated on a credentials page? You may need to trace back in the URL (Internet address) to view a page in a higher directory with background information
  • Is the sponsor/location of the site appropriate to the material as shown in the URL? Examples:
    • .edu for educational or research material
    • .gov for government resources
    • .com for commercial products or commercially-sponsored sites
    • ~NAME in URL may mean a personal home page with no official sanction

What is the Nature of the Content?

  • Don’t take the information presented at face value
  • Web sites are rarely refereed or reviewed, as are scholarly journals and books, so look for:
    • point of view
    • evidence of bias
  • Source of the information should be clearly stated, whether original or borrowed from elsewhere


  • Depth of information: determine if content covers a specific time period or aspect of the topic, or strives to be comprehensive
  • Use additional print and electronic sources to complement the information provided


  • Look to see if:
    • Site has been updated recently, as reflected in the date on the page
    • Material contained on the page is current


  • Links are relevant and appropriate
  • Don’t assume that the linked sites are the best available. Be sure to investigate additional sites on the topic

Style and Functionality

  • Site is laid out clearly and logically with well organized subsections
  • Writing style is appropriate for the intended audience
  • Site is easy to navigate, including:
    • Clearly labeled Back, Home, Go To Top icons/links
    • Internal indexing links on lengthy pages
  • Links to remote sites all work
  • Search capability is offered if the site is extensive

Adapted from:
Trudi Jacobson (4/96)
Coordinator of User Education Programs

Laura Cohen
Network Services Librarian

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