How to Evaluate Online Information

by Barbara J. Feldman on June 6, 2008

When looking at information whether it is on the Internet or somewhere else, how do you know for sure if it’s dependable and reliable? How can you trust the information you have been given? There are ways to find out if the information you are reading is valid. Here are some tips on how to evaluate information:

•Who’s providing the information?
•On a web page, look at the top of the page for the provider.
•Check the title, and the opening paragraphs to see if some person or organization is named as the person responsible for the web pages. You can also find that information at the bottom of the page.
•Look at the page’s URL; this can also give you information about the source of the web page. It can also indicate what type of organization and what country a web page comes from.
•Examine links to and from other Web sites.

Is the source an expert?

•What qualifications does this person or organization have on this topic?
•Does the author have a university degree specifically in this area?
•Is the person a professional or an amateur?
•What other information can you find about the author or organization responsible for the information of the web page?
•Check the grammar and spelling of the article.
•Examine links to and from other Web sites.
•Look for other articles that were written by the author or publisher.
•Verify their credentials.
•Examine credentials in author bios and “about us” pages.
•Check the professional directory.
•Is the person cited as an expert in the news or this type of literature?

What is the purpose of the document?

•Does the author claim this page to be fact or are they trying to persuade you of something?
•Are they trying to sell you a product that they discussed on the page?
•Who is the author of this relaying this information to? Is it intended for scholars, experts, students, or to anyone who will listen?
•Does it have valuable usable research?
•Was it written for advertisement purposes?

Does the source provide a balanced viewpoint?

•Is the writing style balanced or is it trying to influence your opinion?
•Does the advertising influence the content?
•Usually a persuasive writer tries to win your favor, but they can use good facts an analysis to accomplish this outcome. It doesn’t just have to be based on their opinion alone.

Is the information current?

•When was the material first written?
•When was the information first placed on the Internet?
•When was the material last revised or updated?
•Is the information on the page outdated?
•Are the links up-to-date?

How complete is the information?

•Are you viewing an entire text or just a section from a full document?
•If what you are viewing is a selection from another document, is there a reference or a link to the original document in case you want more detail?
•What topics are covered?
•How in depth does the information go on the topic?
•Does the page offer information that isn’t found elsewhere?

When was the material published?

•When was the file last updated?
•Is the information still valid today?
•Does it replicate an already printed publication?
•Information on the Internet is usually more up to date than actual printed publications in books and magazines. The Internet is usually the best place for the most up to date information, but you have to make sure it is valid.

Make sure when looking at information that you evaluate it and make sure it is comes from a viable source. Following these tips for evaluating information is a great way to ensure you are getting truthful and valuable content. Make sure you do your homework before you take just anyone’s word.

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Cite This Page

Feldman, Barbara. "How to Evaluate Online Information." Surfnetkids. Feldman Publishing. 6 Jun. 2008. Web. 22 Oct. 2014. <http://www.surfnetkids.com/tech/452/how-to-evaluate-online-information/ >.