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Evaluating Your Sources: Evaluating web-based sources

find and evaluate web-based information

How to Evaluate a Web Page

Evaluating web pages can be tricky but there are four main categories to consider when finding quality web information:

Bias

Bias

Biased writing shows partiality, preference, or prejudice for or against a person (or group of people), object, or idea. Our environments, cultures, families, and other factors influence our personal bias. We all have biases but they only become a problem when we allow our biases to influence our opinions of issues, people, and logic. While most media organizations are biased in some way, steer clear of "hyber-biased" sources and be sure to acknowledge a source's political leanings in your writing. (i.e.: "According to the conservative publication National Review.....)

What questions should we ask about bias in our information sources?

  • What is the author's or publication's political point of view?
  • Are alternate points of view (that differ from the author's) presented?
  • Does the argument appeal to emotion rather than logic?
  • Does the author oversimplify or over-generalize the issue?

Use the online resources below to check the potential bias or political leanings of a publication.

Intent

Intent

The intent or purpose of an article speaks to its credibility. Think about why the article was written or why this information is being shared. Is the author attempting to change the reader's mind or selling a product? Be cautious of opinion pieces like blogs or op-eds, as well as any articles that promote a specific product or service.

  • Does the information inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
  • Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda?

Publication Reputation & Status

When finding quality information on the internet, a source's reputation and status may tell us more about the information than the author.

What kind of questions should we ask when considering a source's status?

  • What information type is the article? (magazine, newspaper, etc.)
  • Is the source available in print as well as online?
  • How long has the publication or website been in existence?
  • Is there original content published only in that source?

Where do we find this information?

  • "About" section of most websites
  • Read about the source on Wikipedia
  • Use other online tools to determine reputation and bias

Viewpoint

Viewpoint

The author’s point of view reveals the author’s beliefs, personal judgments, or attitudes toward a certain subject.

Questions to ask about an author's viewpoint:​​

  • What evidence did the author include to support their opinions?
  • What facts were missing?
  • What words and phrases did the author use to present the information?

Domain Suffixes

Domain suffixes are the three letters that come after the last period in a web address: .com, .edu, .org, etc. Sometimes, they can tell you a lot about who created the website, which can help you determine whether or not the content is credible. 

This video, created by the Des Moines Area Community College, gives a quick overview of the most common domain suffixes and what they mean. Don't solely rely on domain suffixes when evaluating a web resource.

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