Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Assessing and Validating Information Found on the Internet

©2000 Melissa Kaplan


Finding information on the Internet is only one part of your research: assessing the quality and timeliness of that information is the other. Not only can it be a waste of time to read through a site and implement the information and suggestions found there, only to later find that they were inaccurate, but such sites may pose a health or safety problem if that information directly affects your health and safety or that of your family, pets, employees, co-workers, or clients. 

Developing A Personal Assessment Framework
We all want something when we access the web. We may be looking for entertainment, or information on a specific subject, or just browsing, following interesting links as they come our way. You may be sent a link by a friend or co-worker, find one referenced in an article you read in a hardcopy newspaper, magazine, or newsletter, or through email services you have signed up for, such as BioMedNet or SciQuest's SciCentral newsletters, or come across them as you read posts in online forums, newsgroups, or email discussion lists. Depending on the source, you may feel there is little or no reason to consciously assess the information, while other sites you will perform some type of assessment.

Ultimately, you will probably develop your own assessment framework to use when assessing sites. The framework might include some or all of the following assessment categories:

Is the information on the site accessible to visitors who are visually impaired? Hearing impaired? Is it easily navigable by those who have limited physical movement or use assistive devices?

Does the color scheme make it difficult to impossible for those with color-deficient vision impairments, or who have trouble discriminating certain color combinations to read the information at the site (examples of problematic text/backgrounds: dark gray on black, yellow on white, red on green)?

Is the site pleasing or comfortable to look at, allowing your eyes to travel the page logically? Is there an overwhelming use of the all the latest animated and streaming graphics, Flash and Java, to the point where it is distracting or slows your access to the information you are seeking?

Is the site easy to navigate? Are there links available to enable you to move throughout the site? Can you move the frames around or are they fixed?

Signal:Noise Ratio
Is the site crammed with cute (or annoying) graphics, banners, buttons, webrings, and other things (noise) that are not information (signal)?

Assuming you've actually found the information part of the site, is the information actually useful to you?

Site Owner/Author
Who owns the site or is otherwise responsible for the content of the site. Given the availability of inexpensive yet sophisticated web authoring tools, anyone can design a good looking site, but appearances are not necessarily indicative of the accuracy or timeliness of the information found on the site. What information is given so that you can determine who the owner is and what their experience is, the resources they used, etc., that will help you evaluate the content of their site?

Things that keep me from revisiting sites, or even waiting for them to finish loading, are those that seem to use the latest gizmos just because they grabbed the code or designed something with it, busy backgrounds, excessive use of bars, banners, animated or blinking things, tons of webrings, poorly organized content, rampant misspellings, links that haven't been updated in years, and the use of really tiny print and poorly contrasted text and background.

Assessment Sites
The following sites are ones I found interesting. They range from scholarly papers to sites written for school children, by and for librarians, and general web consumers. Note that the information on some of these sites will stand you in good stead when evaluating any type of information source.


Generally Applies to All Types of Information Resources

Evaluating Your Sources Virginia Commonweath Libraries
How To Critically Analyze Information Resources Cornell University
Don't Believe Everything You Read (PDF) Indiana University


Internet-Related Assessment

A Student's Guide to Research with the WWW
BBC Education: A Guide to Quality Information Research on the Internet
Evaluating Web Resources
The Good, The Bad and the Useless: Evaluating Internet Resources
U.C. Berkeley's Evaluating Internet Resources: A Checklist
Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators: Critical Evaluation Information


Health Care-Related Assessment

Ten Things to Know about Evaluating Medical Resources on the Web
Searching the Internet for Drug Information: Strategies for Locating Accurate and Scientifically Accepted Information



Additional sites may be found through:

DMOZ Web Site Evaluation



Suggested Books


Web Wisdom: How to Evaluate and Create Information Quality on the Web
by Janet E. Alexander, Marsha A. Tate


A1 Books

Barnes & Noble


A1 Books

Barnes & Noble


Information Literacy

Student Learning in the Information Age
by Patricia Senn Breivik


A1 Books

Barnes & Noble

Teaching Information Literacy Skills
by Patricia Iannuzzi, Stephen S. Strichart, Charles T., II Mangrum


A1 Books

Barnes & Noble


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