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Evaluating Web Resources

Types of Online Resources

Evaluating resources is an important part of the research process. Whether you are using books, newspapers, or articles, you should always be sure that the source you use is the best fit for your research. It is especially important to evaluate material found on the Web.

The Internet

The Internet (Net) is the vast collection of interconnected networks, facilitating data communication services such as email, file transfer and the World Wide Web (Web).

Information on the internet is mostly unfiltered, requiring extra caution in selecting reliable sources. Virtually anyone can create a web site on a topic, regardless of their training, education or experience in the subject field. When conducting Web searches via a search engine (e. g.Google), it is often not possible to tell if these documents are accurate or authoritative. The Internet is a constantly changing, international environment that is ungoverned, generally uncensored and uncontrolled.

Databases

By comparison to the World Wide Web, the journal articles and other online resources available through the UMSL Libraries have been evaluated and determined to be authoritative sources by editors, scholars, and librarians. These databases (or, electronic resources) allow you to simultaneously search through hundreds of magazines, journals and newspapers from credible publishing companies. Your results show you who wrote the article, who published it,and when it was published.

Most of the Libraries’ databases are provided to current UMSL students, faculty, and staff through the Internet, but they are more reliable than the average source on the open Web.To search only these authoritative sources

  • Go to http://www.umsl.edu/library
  • Choose “Search Individual Databases” to find a particular database. An alphabetical list is presented by default, but you can also choose to see sets of databases listed by subject and type as well.
  • You can also use Summon to search across many databases together.

If you have questions,consult with a reference librarian for the best sources of online and print information on your topic.

Summon

Summon, the Libraries' Google-like search engine, indexes many of our print and online resources, including journals and books. Enter your keywords; on the results screen, use the options on the left to refine your search. If you do not find what you need, use a specific, specialized database or consult a reference librarian.

Google Scholar

A subset of the Google search engine, searches for academic materials such as journal articles, theses, books, abstracts, and technical reports from all disciplines.

If you use Google Scholar on campus, it will automatically connect to library resources.To sync Scholar with library resources from off-campus, change the following setting.

From Google Scholar:

  • Click on Settings.
  • Click on Library links.
  • Type the name of your library (Example: University of Missouri –St. Louis).
  • Click Save.

Now when you search,the option for “Full-Text @ My Library” will appear on available resources. Clicking on this link will take you to the full text. You may need to log in with your SSO ID and password.(For more information about access to online library resources, please see these guides:

Evaluation of Web Documents

  Evaluation of Web documents How to interpret the basics
1

Accuracy of Web Documents

  • Who wrote the page and can you contact him or her?
  • What is the purpose of the document and why was it produced?
  • Is this person qualified to write this document?

Accuracy

  • Make sure author provides e-mail or a contact address/phone number.
  • Know the distinction between author and Webmaster.
  • Does the author cite reliable sources for his or her facts?
2

Authority of Web Documents

  • Who published the document and is it separate from the "Webmaster?"
  • Check the domain of the document; what institution publishes this document?
  • Does the publisher list his or her qualifications?

Authority

  • Are the authors of the document identified?
  • What credentials are listed for the author(s)?
  • Where is the document published? Check URL domain.
3

Objectivity of Web Documents

  • What goals/objectives does this page meet?
  • How detailed is the information?
  • What opinions (if any) are expressed by the author?

Objectivity

  • Determine if page is a mask for advertising; if so information might be biased.
  • View any Web page as you would an infomercial on television. Ask yourself why was this written and for whom?
4

Currency of Web Documents

  • When was it produced?
  • When was it updated?
  • How up-to-date are the links (if any)?

Currency

  • How many dead links are on the page?
  • Are the links current or updated regularly?
  • Is the information on the page outdated?
5

Coverage of the Web Documents

  • Are the links (if any) evaluated and do they complement the document's theme?
  • Is it all images or a balance of text and images?
  • Is the information presented cited correctly?

Coverage

  • If page requires special software to view the information, how much are you missing if you don't have the software?
  • Is it free, or is there a fee, to obtain the information?
  • Is there an option for text only, or frames, or a suggested browser for better viewing?

Table created by Jim Kapoun, adapted by Clinton Berry. Used with permission.

Is Wikipedia a reliable source?

For the answer to this question, see the Evaluating Websites guide from the University of Texas Arlington Library. In addition to information about how to use Wikipedia, it also has more great information and examples about how to determine which websites are reliable.