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Internet Sources for Research Help Guide: Critiquing Websites

Why Critique Web Sources?

One of the things that many students neglect to do is critique the resources they use for a research project or paper. This is particularly true for information found through web searches.

For instructors and professors, it is always very clear when a student has used something from an internet source without thought or when a student has plainly copied from a source found online (Google is also a great tool to find the original source for something that has been plagiarized.)

You will find yourself doing much better work when you use these very basic criteria to assess the worth of an internet source.

Critiquing Websites

These are fundamental criteria by which you judge a source of information:

  • Author
  • Date of Publication
  • Edition or Revision
  • Publisher
  • Intended Audience
  • Objective Reasoning
  • Coverage
  • Writing Style

Websites require a second level of scrutiny*:

  • 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's the bias?
  • Could the page or site be ironic, like a satire or a spoof?
  • If you have questions or reservations, how can you satisfy them?

*From Evaluating Resources: Critical Evaluation, produced by the UC Berkeley Libraries. This is a good, comprehensive guide to evaluating websites.

Critiquing Worksheet

This worksheet will prompt you to ask the types of questions that need to be asked when working with websites for scholarly research. It will help you to think about what you are using and why you are using it; when you do this your work is better -- well-informed and thoughtful.