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Instructional Design and Technology : Evaluating Sources and Websites

Scholarly vs Popular Materials Guide

Website Evaluation Criteria

Use these guidelines when determining the reliability of a webpage for research.

1)    What type of site is it?  It’s helpful to know where the authors are coming from:

  • Popular (slick, 2nd or 3rd hand information; main purpose to entertain or promote a viewpoint
  • Substantive News or General Interest (general info, appealing to broad audience)
  • Scholarly (author is credible; bibliography present; language academic/technical)
  • Sensational (language is elementary, inflammatory, or sensational)

2)   Authority with regard to topicwho is responsible for the site?

  • Author of site (individual/institutional affiliation, organization)
  • Credentials, expertise, experience in subject matter
  • Contact information provided (name, e-mail, postal address)
  • URL type may suggest reputable affiliation or commercial interests (.edu=educational institution; .org=non-profit organization; .com=commercial enterprise; .net=Internet Service Provider; .gov=governmental body; .mil=military)
  • When in doubt about sponsorship, look up the site on

3)    Objectivitywhat is the purpose of the site? Does it push any particular viewpoint?

  • Check the statement of purpose/scope, and disclosure of sponsorship (look for “about us”), in addition to any “hidden” biases evident through your critical reading of text, or independent research done on the organization or author.
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Information presented as factual or opinion, primary or secondary in origin?
  • Criteria given for inclusion of information?

4)   Accuracyhow accurate is the information?

  • Facts documented or well-researched
  • Facts compare to related print or other online sources
  • Links provided to quality Web resources

5)    Currencywhen was the information posted and/or written?

  • Evidence of current content
  • Pages date-stamped with latest update

6)   Usability—is the site well designed and stable?

  • Site organization logical and easy to maneuver with links back to home page
  • Content readable by intended audience
  • Information presented is error-free (spelling, punctuation)


Adapted from: “Criteria for Evaluating Web Resources”. Kent State University Libraries and “Introduction to Research–Evaluating resources”.  Cornell University Library