Module 5: Examining and Evaluating Reference Sources Part II Web

A Hands-On Approach to Web Resources

Evaluation Criteria for Web Resources

  • Author
  • Content
  • Domain Name
  • Date of Last Revision
  • Objectivity
  • Authority
  • Accuracy

Web Examination

Consider purpose, authority, scope, audience, and format when evaluating Web resources as well as print resources. Unfortunately many websites fail to provide this information. A few useful things to consider in evaluating a website:

  • What can the URL tell you? Is it from an .edu, .org, .com, or .gov site, or is it somebody’s personal page?
  • Scan the perimeter of the page, looking for links to About, Background, etc.
  • Look for the date of the most recent revision or update
  • Look for indicators of quality information, i.e., who is responsible for the content of the page and are sources documented?
  • Are links well-chosen and organized?
  • What do others say? Do a web search on the author or organization behind the site, and look critically at what is said about them.

Premium library databases should also be considered during a reference transaction, depending upon the information for which the patron is searching.

How Will the Resource Be Useful?

When examining a resource that’s new to you or in a new edition or format, consider the following aspects carefully.

  • Purpose: Why was the site written? What is it intended to do? Does it really do that? Use the title and an examination of the site itself to help you determine the purpose.
  • Authority: Is the author qualified to write the site? Is the publisher reputable?
  • Scope: What does the site really cover?
  • Audience: For whom is the site written?
  • Format: How is the site arranged? Does it have an index? A search box? A site map? Is it easy to use?

It is helpful to look through your databases and reference sites to learn what resources you have available and to know how to use them when helping patrons.

Major Point: There is no substitute for knowing the value of the electronic reference sources in your collection. To evaluate and use a resource effectively, you must recognize indicators of quality for websites.