Essay Evaluating A Website

Although there is a lot of useful information on the internet, not all information can be considered reliable or valid and not all websites are credible.  Individuals or groups are able to set up a website, create a logo, apply copyright to their material, and present material online with the appearance of credibility and backing by a reputable organisation or group.  However, the information provided may not always align with other credible works on the topic. Given that self-published work is generally not used in academic writing, and the internet contains much self-published work, care must be taken to assess the source of material you wish to use in your assignment.

 

How to use this guide

Use the following questions to help you critically evaluate websites. You will not usually need to answer every question listed or search in all the locations suggested.  For example, the Statistics New Zealand website can be considered to contain reliable information and only currency and relevance of the information you have sourced would need to be assessed. For a checklist method of website evaluation see pages three and four of this guide.

What to look for Where to look

Credibility Who is the author?

  • What are the author’s qualifications and from which institution?
  • Is the website really a personal page which gives the appearance of representing an organisation or larger group?
  • If it is a genuine organisation, does the author’s writing align with the organisation’s values and goals?
  • Do contact details allow opportunity to communicate with the author and ask them questions?
  • Is the tone and style of writing factual?
  • Are there grammar and spelling errors?
  • Look for tabs titled “About us," "Philosophy," "Background," "Biography".
  • Check in academic databases to locate other publications by the author.
  • Search for this person online.
  • Consider the tone, style and quality of writing.  Inappropriate tone and style, and poor grammar and spelling are signals which may indicate poor credibility.
  • Look at the URL domain names to help determine the type of organisation:

  • .gov or .govt 

    Government

    .org 

    Organisation

    .co

    Company

    .ac or .edu

    academic or educational

    .com

    commercial (can be used by private individuals)


Check on line for significance of a domain name if you are unsure.

AuthorityIs the author qualified to comment?

  • Does the author have relevant expertise, experience or previous relevant publications?
  • Has this person been cited by others?

AccuracyCan you verify the information?

  • Are the references used real, credible, and relevant?
  • Is the information consistent with other authors’ findings?
  • Check sources/references used.
  • Research other publications on the same topic.

Currency– Is the information current?

  • Is there a publication date?
  • Is there reference to recent published material?

 

Look for publication and revision dates – usually, but not always, at the bottom of a web page.

If the page is undated content cannot be placed in time and it is therefore not always possible to be sure the information is current.

BiasIs the information one-sided?

  • What is the purpose of the website? Who, therefore, is the intended audience?
  • Is there a professed or apparent commitment to a particular point of view, product, or service?
  • Is any bias acknowledged?
  • Are alternative sides of the issue or topic presented?
  • Is advertising present on the page? The presence of advertising may signal bias towards advertiser’s products, values, beliefs.

Decide if the purpose is to persuade, present a point of view, disclose, entertain, sell, justify the author’s own actions or opinions, or present data and facts.

Check for sound argument, supporting facts, and references that include sources representing more than one point of view.

Assess any advertising present.

LinksWhat do the website links tell you?

  • Are there any dead links?
  • Who links to the page?
  • Who does the page link to?

Follow links and assess their credibility.

Links can give insight into possible bias.
Note that a link to another organisation does not mean the information has been condoned or approved of by that organisation.

 

 

Checklist for evaluating a website

Credibility and Authority
Who is the author of the website?

□ I cannot tell                  □The author is:............................................................

What is the qualification of the author or group?

□ I cannot tell                  □The author’s qualifications are: ........................................

What is the relevant experience or expertise to comment on the topic?

□ I cannot tell                  □The author’s relevant experience or expertise is:.....................

What does the URL tell me?

□ I cannot tell                  □Type of organisation is:...................................................  

Does the website provide a way of communicating with the author?

 

Accuracy
What sources does the author use to back up their comments?

□ I cannot tell                  □They cited:................................................................

Are the conclusions drawn or information provided consistent with other authors’ comments?

□ I cannot tell                  □Other relevant citations include:........................................

Do the sources cited contain sound material?

□ I cannot tell                  □Yes                    □No

 

Bias
What is the purpose of the website?         (choose one)

□ To express personal opinion, beliefs, thoughts
□ To entertain
□ To persuade towards purchase of a product, service, belief
□ To encourage
□ To inform
□ To present data and facts

Information provided is:

□ Balanced, objective or factual   □ Biased, subjective or opinionated?

Are arguments well supported?      □ Yes           □No
Is bias acknowledged?                   □ Yes           □No

 

Currency
When was the website last updated?

□ I cannot tell        □ Not important for my topic       □ It was updated:..........................



Links

Are the links to sound material?

Are links broken?

(Adapted from University of Maryland Libraries, 2014)

 

References

Bell, C. (n.d.). Critical evaluation of information sources. Retrieved form https://library.uoregon.edu/guides/findarticles/credibility.html

Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask. (n.d.). Retrieved fromhttp://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/Evaluate.html

University Library: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2012). Evaluating internet sources: Tips and tricks for evaluating web sites. Retrieved from http://www.library.illinois.edu/ugl/howdoi/webeval.html

University of Maryland Libraries. (2014). Evaluating websites: A checklist. Retrieved from http://www.lib.umd.edu/binaries/content/assets/public/usereducation/evaluating-web-sites-checklist-form-spring-2014.pdf

 

Useful Link

Evaluating Information - Applying the CRAAP Test

 

Updated January 2016

 

Good bye High School, Hello College

Writing has never been something I thought I was good at or particularly enjoyed doing. For that reason, I kept my writing process quick and simple. My steps typically consisted of a brief outline with the necessary examples and quotes I’d need and just one draft that served as both my rough and final. The little revision that I did only occurred as I was typing up the essay. This process usually resulted in a good grade each time, but despite that I was never pleased with what I wrote. I could not even pinpoint my strengths or weaknesses because I was never given any constructive feedback.While working on the web evaluation paper, my first college essay, I received feedback and suggestions that really encouraged me to put extra time and effort into my paper to make it better with every draft. In the end, I now understand that revision and creating multiple drafts is a necessity before I can reach the solid final draft that I will finally find suitable to submit.

For this essay, I had to evaluate a website and determine how its content, structure, and design contributed to the creator’s purpose and whether or not it effectively reached its intended audience. I chose to evaluate a photography business called Mod 4 Photographic, which is owned by a married couple named Jes and Nate. Their purpose for creating this website is to attract new clients with their work and create fun portraits along the way. The audience they’re targeting can range from anyone to pet owners, families, couples, and high school seniors due to the photographers’ versatility.Throughout the process of writing this paper, organizing my information in the most cohesive way was the most confusing step, while providing enough analysis was my most frustrating. However, multiple revisions helped me to overcome these obstacles.

Organizing my ideas in a fluid manner was confusing because this was no longer a high school paper. Usually, I would write an intro with my thesis as the last sentence, three body paragraphs to support it, and a conclusion that restated my thesis. I couldn’t rely on this “5 paragraph essay” since the web evaluation required a complex thesis where three paragraphs was nowhere near enough to support it. However, after a conference with my instructor and an example of a web evaluation in hand, I was able to move past this difficulty. Using the example as a guide, I started with a three paragraph intro with my thesis located in the third and multiple body paragraphs that discussed the location of the main content of the website, the text, and the organization of the photographs in that order. After my first conference, I realized that my thesis sentence needed to be stated sooner and the paragraph about the main content’s location had no focus because it needed to be better organized and separated into two. I never mentioned anything specific about the photos themselves so I had to insert a paragraph about that. I also needed to rearrange everything so the order that information was given made more sense, such as talking about the main content first and then becoming more specific by discussing the photos and text that the content was composed of. By my third draft, I managed to create a flow between my paragraphs from the pros and cons of the main content’s location, to the navigation and organization of the photos, to the photos themselves, and then to the text.

During the writing process of this essay, I learned that one of my strengths in writing are giving descriptions and stating examples. What I was usually missing was an evaluative claim that supported my evidence and then an analysis of it. For example, in my first rough draft, I mentioned that “The website’s main content is located in “Blog”. On this page, everything is centered on an orange background with sky blue on the sides.” I didn’t mention why the main content was located on the blog or whether or not it was an effective decision. I also didn’t explain why that color scheme was chosen and whether another scheme would have been more beneficial. Fortunately, my class had a workshop dealing with peer editing paragraphs where my partner explained what kind of evaluations I needed and assisted me in expanding my essay. I also received several peer editing worksheets that provided questions I could ask myself in order to analyze every piece of evidence I presented. After several drafts, I found myself constantly asking why the website’s creator made a certain choice and whether the audience would find it effective or not. This moved my paper from just having good descriptions to having a balance of examples, evaluations, and analysis.

By the end of this writing process, I realized that having a rough draft and then revising was something I somewhat enjoyed. Taking the time to actually write a really rough draft instead of a final right from the start allowed me to get my ideas on paper without worrying about making perfect sense. When revision came along, I carefully went through each paragraph and included information I needed to elaborate on, removed any tangential ideas, and organized all my thoughts into something more comprehensible. If I had taken my old writing route, I know that I would have been submitting a paper with a confusing structure that lacked focus and consisted only of descriptions. While writing my first draft, I was even thinking that I did not provide enough evaluations and certain paragraphs even confused me. However, I didn’t worry too much because I knew it had to undergo a lot of revising before the end result. From now on, I will definitely start writing a rough draft and taking my time to do multiple revisions so I can improve in areas I need work on but also see where I did well in.

To read my Web Evaluation: Click Here

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