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Teachers ' Guide on How to Evaluate Web Content

Techniques of Web Evaluation
Below is a list of some of the best and most important techniques we can use to  teach our students how to evaluate a web page. Please check the webliography links at the end of this post for further readings.

1- Scan the URL
The URL is the web address of the page you are reading. it has this format :www.name of the website.name of article you are reading.com. This is the first door we need to tap in to get a glimpse of what the article is all about. Read the URL carefully and look for the following :
Does the URL have a domain name and if so is it appropriate for the content ? Students should know that a site that has a domain name ending with .edu is more likely to be relevant for academic and educational content. Other domain names of interest are .com, , .gov, .org. This does not mean that other domain names are spam or would not be irrelevant, we can also find good and credible content in other domains.

2- When you are on a web page, make sure you check for these : " about us", " Philosophy ", " Background", " Bibliography". This will give you an idea about the people behind that content.

3- Look for the name of the author, or the name of the organization or institution, agency or whoever is responsible for the page.

4- Check out if the page is dated and if so , is it current enough ? Undated factual or statistical information is no better than anonymous information.

5- Look for indicators of quality information : are sources documented with footnotes or links ? Do the links work ? Are they reliable ? if the article is reproduced from another source then is it complete, not altered, fake, or forged ?

6- Try to figure out the purpose of the website ? Is it mainly commercial ? is the author trying to generate revenue by recommending things, enticing, or selling products ? Is the website informative and provides data and facts ?

 Evaluation Criteria 
According to nmsu.edu, There are 5major yardsticks to keep  in mind while trying to evaluate a website: "
1- Authority :The authority of a webpage can be established by finding answers to these questions :
  • Is there an author ? If so, is there a way to contact him/her ?
  • Is the page signed ?
  • Is the author qualified ? An expert in his domain ? ( you can learn about this from his " about us " page if he has one.
  • Is there a link to the information about the author or the sponsor of the website ? If the pages does not include no author name of sponsor, then is there any other way to determine its origin ?
2- AccuracyTo establish accuracy in a web page you need to ask yourself these questions :
  • Is the information reliable ?
  • Is it error-free ?
  • Does it include links to other resources ?
  • Is there an editor or someone who verifies and checks information ?
3- Objectivity :To look for objectivity in a web age you need to ask the following questions :
  • Does the information show a minimum of bias ?
  • Is the author impartial in his reasoning ?
  • Is the page designed to sway opinions ?
  • How much advertising on the page ?
4- CurrencyTo investigate about this feature ask the following :
  • Is the page dated ?
  • How often is it dated ?
  • What is the last time the page updated ?
  • How current are the links? Have some expired or moved ?
5- Coverage :to learn about a web page coverage you need to ask the following questions :
  • what topics this website cover ?
  • What is it that this page offer to readers ?
  • How in-depth is the material ?
  • What about the writing style, arguments, data , and facts included ? how are these developed ? "
More evaluation tools
We have  read several  articles about this topic while we were working on this post but we did not find anything better than the neat and clear-cut classification of the web evaluation tools Cornell University Library has provided. Of course some of the things they included have already been mentioned above but there are many more to learn about. Here is a summary of what they have written:
"Evaluation criteria according to Cornell University Library :
  • Author
  • Date of publication
  • Edition or Revision
  • Publisher
  • Title of Journal
  • Intended Audience
  • Objective Reasoning
  • Coverage
  • Writing Style
  • Evaluative reviews
Evaluating Web pages : Questions to ask ? ( always according to Cornell University Library )
  • What can the URL tell you /
  • Who wrote the page ? is he,she, or the authoring institution a qualified authority ?
  • Is it dated ? Current, timely ?
  • Is information cited authentic ?
  • Does the page have overall integrity and reliability as a source ?
  • What the bias ?
  • Could the page or site be iconic, like a satire or a spoof ?
  • If you have questions or reservations, how can you satisfy them ? "
Two Great  tools to evaluate websites

2- Google Page rank
This is a sophisticated algorithm Google uses to classify websites from 0 to 10 with 10 being the top. Any webpage with a Google Page rank of 3 upwards is a  website that has more chances of being credible. The first thing you should do whenever you  land on a page for the first time is to check its Google Page rank. You can install its extension on your browser and with one click you will be able to see the rank number of any web page. Check this page to download the extension for Chrome, Firefox,or Safari

3- Alexa Traffic rank
Alexa traffic rank is another great tool to rank websites. Advertisers use it a lot especially when looking for potential clients. Alexa ranks websites according to their backlinks and pageviews. It starts with 26 million down to 1 with 1 being the top. Any website ranked from 300.000 has more chances of being a good resource. Again Alexa has an extension for both Chrome and Firefox and it can also be used right from their homepage.

4- Who is Hosting This
Who is Hosting This has this great guide to help students evaluate web resources. Check it out

Webliography :
1- Cybraryman links
2- Finding and Evaluating Websites Assignments
3- Evaluating Web pages
4- Evaluating and Using Print and Media Resources
5- Comparing and Evaluating Web Information Resources
6- Check-list for Evaluating Web Resources

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