Evaluating Web Pages

You should apply to Web sites the same evaluation techniques that you use in judging other kinds of source material and in challenging sources. (See "Evaluating Sources" in chapter 6 of The Research Process for specific tips.) But because the average college researcher is now likely to use the Web quite early in the research process, here are some basic rules of thumb and some guides to evaluating Web sites.

1. Learn to distinguish between different types of Web sites.

Cal State at Stanislaus hosts a useful list of sites that offer criteria for judging such diverse types of Web resources as advocacy pages, business/marketing pages, informational pages, news pages, and personal home pages: http://wwwlibrary.csustan.edu/lboyer/webeval/webeval.htm.

2. If you plan to use material from a specific Web site, evaluate it thoroughly.

Esther Grassian at UCLA supplies an excellent checklist of criteria. Visit http://www.mscare.org/cmsc/Articles-Thinking-Critically-about-World-Wide-Web-Resources.html. Print out Grassian's guidelines to use in completing this exercise and evaluating sources for your paper.

3. Apply your skills of critical thinking to Web sites.

Robert Harris at Southern California College provides a clear and lively introduction. Visit http://www.virtualsalt.com/evalu8it.htm. Print out Harris's guidelines to use in completing this exercise and evaluating sources for your paper.

4. Remember that you may safely use Web sites to find topic bibliographies.

Even if a topic bibliography is incomplete or inaccurate, you can correct it later and supplement it by using standard indexes. (Using "Save as" to save a bibliography on a floppy disk is a great way to speed the source-hunting process, though you should never hand in final versions of listings from such a bibliography without verifying and correcting them by looking at the actual sources.) See the inside front cover of The Research Process for some examples of helpful, scholarly Web sites, and visit Mayfield Online for updates.

5. A research paper based solely on Web sources is virtually never adequately researched.

Good college research judiciously blends carefully chosen material from books, periodical articles, and other sources, including online resources. (Rare exceptions: Some topics, such as those involving popular culture or very recent trends or fads, may be best supported by means of Web resources.)

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