Skip to main content

Evaluating Information and Avoiding Fake News

Common Tests

Critical Evaluation skills - Alexander & Tate

BulletWho sponsors the creation and maintenance of the page?
BulletPurpose of sponsoring organization?
BulletAddress or contact information provided for sponsoring organization?
BulletWho developed the information?
BulletWhat are his/her credentials on the topic?
BulletContact information for this author?

BulletSources for factual information provided?
BulletAny errors you can detect? Who is responsible for the accuracy of the information?
BulletIn statistical data is in graphs or charts, are they labeled clearly? Any errors?

BulletProvided as a public service?
BulletFree of advertising?
BulletIf advertising, is it identified and separate?
BulletOther signs of bias?

BulletDates present for when written, when first placed online, when last revised or edited?
BulletUpdated frequently enough to ensure currency of the data?
BulletIf taken from a print source, is the edition given?
BulletLinks up to date?

BulletPage not under construction?
BulletIf from larger work, is the relationship clear?
BulletIf from an old source, has it been updated?
BulletAny evidence of omissions?
BulletDoes it cover the subject adequately?

Source: Alexander, Jan. & Tate, Marsha. (1996, Nov/Dec). Teaching Critical Evaluation skills for World Wide Web Resources. Computers In Libraries.

Web Evaluation - Kapoun

BulletWho published the page? Check the domain: what institution publishes this document?
BulletDoes the publisher list his or her qualifications?

BulletWho wrote the page, can you contact him?
BulletWhat is the purpose of the document, why produced?
BulletIs this person qualified to write this document?

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

BulletWhen was it produced?
BulletWhen was it updated?
BulletHow up-to-date are the links (if any)?

BulletAre the links evaluated and do they complement the document's theme?
BulletIs it all images or a balance of text and images? Is the information cited?

Source: Kapoun, Jim. (1998, July/Aug). Teaching Undergrads Web Evaluation: A Guide for Library Instruction. C&RL News, 522.523.

Evaluating Websites - San Francisco Public Library

BulletLook at the author.
BulletFamous, respected? Or unknown?
BulletLook at the URL. Use the domain to help determine if the site is reliable.

BulletLook at the date. Are links working? If not, you can guess the author is no longer maintaining this website.

BulletWhat is the goal of this website?
BulletWhat is the viewpoint? (Give facts, sell, inform, persuade, laughter)
BulletIntended to help people do research or talk them into buying something?

BulletWhere does the information come from?
BulletDocumented, or from an organization famous for its research.
BulletBeware if sources not provided.

BulletWhy is this information useful to you? Does it answer your questions? Does it help you write your report?
BulletThe best information in the world is not useful if it does not answer the questions YOU have.

Source: San Francisco Public Library, "Evaluating Web Sites: A how to guide for researchers." Inspired by the work of Kathy Schrock.

Evaluating Web Pages - Baker

What can the URL tell you?
BulletIs it somebody's personal page?
BulletWhat type of domain does it come from (.com, .net, .org, .edu, .gov, or .mil)?
BulletIs it published by an entity that makes sense?

Scan the perimeter of the page
BulletWho wrote the page: look for links that say "About us," "Philosophy," "Background," "Biography," or "Who am I." If you cannot find these, truncate back the URL one / at a time to see if you can find out who is behind the page.
BulletIs the page current enough? Look for the "last updated" date on all the pages of the site.
BulletWhat are the author's credentials on this subject?

Look for indicators of quality
BulletLook for links to other resources.
BulletIs the information documented?
BulletDo the links reflect a bias?
BulletLook at the publisher (first part of URL usually): is it the true publisher or possibly a fake?

What do others say?
BulletFind out what pages link to this page. Look the page or site up in a reliable subject directory for opinions. Search the author's name in Google and see what you find.

Does it all add up?
BulletStep back and pay attention to your gut reaction to all you've found.
BulletWhat are the intentions of the authors? Why was the page created? (Inform, explain, give data, persuade, entice, sell, share, disclose)
BulletBe sensitive to the possibility that you are the victim of a spoof, irony, joke, satire, or parody.
BulletIs this source as good as what I could find if I used the library and its resources?

Source: Barker, Joe. "Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask," Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2005.

Evaluating Internet Resources: A Checklist - InfoPeople

BulletWho is the author of the piece?
BulletIs the author the creator of the information?
BulletDoes the author list his or her occupation, years of experience, position, education, or other credentials?

BulletWhat institution (company, organization government, university, etc.) or internet provider supports this information?
BulletIf it is a commercial Internet provider, does the author appear to have any connection with larger institution?
BulletDoes the institution appear to exercise quality control over the information appearing under its name?
BulletDoes the author's affiliation with this particular institution appear to bias the information?

BulletWhat was the date the information was created or last updated?

BulletWhat appears to be the purpose for this information (inform, explain, persuade)?

BulletWho is the intended audience?
BulletCompared to what?
BulletWhat does this work/site offer compared to other works, including non-Internet works?

BulletGiven all the information you determined from above, is this Internet site appropriate to add to your bookmark?

Source: InfoPeople: "Evaluating Internet Resources: A Checklist."

Adapted from: Wilkinson, G.L., Bennett, L., & Oliver, K. (1997, March/April). Consolidated Listing of Evaluation Criteria and Quality Indicators. Educational Technology.


Source: Reshaping Reference to Fit the Internet Culture. (2006, Summer). Ceated by Joe Barker for the Infopeople Project [], supported by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian. Any use of this material should credit the author and funding source.