Introduction
As you research your topic and select websites as resources, you’ll want to critically evaluate the websites to make sure they are reliable and worthwhile to support your topic. In this webquest, you’ll learn about a simple way to evaluate websites and will practice it with one of these sample websites.

Task
In your assigned group, read about how to evaluate websites, and then practice it on your assigned website. Then, individually, you will pick a website you’ve already found for your own topic (or find one today), and go through the same process to evaluate it and decide if it is a worthwhile source.

Process & Resources
  1. Practice evaluating with the websites in the list below. Look at the website and evaluate it using the technique described below. Use the graphic organizer handout given in class.
  2. Once you’ve gone through the evaluation process, each person should take a website they already planned on using for the paper (or if you didn’t have one yet, find one), and evaluate that website using the same technique. If you need to finish this part for homework, please do so.

Websites to Evaluate:



Evaluation Document:






How to evaluate a website (based on and excerpted from November Learning, www.novemberlearning.com)
You will use the REAL technique to evaluate a website
• R – Read the URL
• E – Examine the site’s content
• A – Ask about the author/publisher
• L – Look at the links

R—Read the URL. To learn about how to read a URL and to understand what the information you find means, please read this resource: http://novemberlearning.com/resources/information-literacy-resources/iv-how-to-read-a-web-address/

E—Examine the site’s content.
Unlike print material, it is sometimes difficult to know if you are reading fiction, nonfiction, editorials or advertisements on the Internet. Therefore, asking questions and thinking critically about the information on the screen is imperative.

Here is a list of guiding questions for students to consider when judging content:
1. Is the information on the website useful for your topic?
2. Are additional resources and links provided? Do the links work?
3. Is the site current? Do you know when it was last updated?
4. Do you think the information is accurate?
5. Does the information contradict information you have found elsewhere?

Learning about the history of a website.
Unlike books, where we only get to see finished, published copies, sites on the Internet are in constant development. An additional, important step in examining a website is to look at its history.

The Wayback Machine (http://www.archive.org) allows you to browse through 85 billion web pages archived from 1996 to a few months ago. To use this site type in the URL of a site or page of which you would like to research, and click the Take Me Back button. Once you have conducted your search, select from the archived dates available.

A—Ask about the author/publisher.
If the author/publisher is displayed, you can look up that author/publisher to learn more about him/her/it and know if it is a reliable source. If the author/publisher is not displayed, how can we find out who has made the website?

If you are ever unsure about the information on a web page and want to know who
owns the site or has published the material, try easyWhois (http://www.easywhois.com).

Researching web site owner information may not be something you do all the time, but it may be revealing if you are at all concerned about the quality of information on a site and want to know more about it.

L—Look at the links.
Links are like digital threads that flow from websites and are placed on a site by the author to help the reader access related sources of information. These links enable you to navigate through related sources of information from within the same or another website with split second connections. Investigating forward links of websites is an important validating step because it can sometimes help you evaluate whether a site contains bias, false or quality information.

Forward Links
Forward links are the links that an author puts on his or her own website to other information on the Internet. The author has full control over the inclusion of forward links.

To check the URLs of forward links, move your cursor over a highlighted portion or graphic. The arrow turns into a hand and a URL appears in the status bar at the lower left of your browser. That’s a quick trick to help students scan links quickly.

When looking at forward links, use these guiding questions:
Question 1 - What are the URLs of the forward links?
The reason for checking the URL of a forward link is straightforward. It can help you judge the quality of the link and see if there are any patterns. Reading the domain name will tell you if there is any connection between the link and the page from which it originates. If the domain name on the link is the same as the domain name on the original site, chances are likely the same person wrote them all.

Question 2 - Do the domain names change?
Chance of bias in information increases on an academic-type website if the same person writes all the reference material. Think of the equivalent in print material. If one author writes a book and all the reference material cited within, you probably wouldn’t consider it to be quality research. The same is true for Web materials. It is important to look at the URLs of forward links to see who has written them. If the same domain name appears again and again in the forward links, there is a pattern and the information is subject to bias.

Question 3 - Is the information biased?
You can often judge the quality of information by looking at the sites to which it connects. In other words, judge the quality of a website by the company it keeps. Many credible authors will offer links to sites dealing with the same topic. Some sites will include links that offer opposing viewpoints to their own, in order to ensure a balanced and unbiased approach. If a website has forward links that lead to questionable information or information you know is biased, the information you are reading may be biased as well.

External Links
A quick look at who has linked to a site might help you gain perspective about the quality of its information. A generated list of external links potentially gives you a range of thoughts or comments about any given website.

External links are not controlled by a website’s author. They may be made by anyone in the world. Therefore, examining a web site's external links is an important step in validating Internet information. In validating, ask three questions:

To find the external links, conduct this search in any search engine (such as Google) with the link: command.
Go to the search engine, type link: in the search box and then add the URL of the site you would like research. Be sure to leave no space before or after the colon.

Question 1 - Who is linked to the website?
Look to see what other groups or individuals have linked to the site. Are they universities, schools or commercial sites? Read the URLs, the titles and the descriptions
of external links carefully. Look to see if there is a pattern in the types of sites linked.

Question 2 - What is the purpose of the link?
Why have groups or individuals chosen to link to this site? Web authors choose to link to other sites for specific purposes. Speculate on what those purposes might be.

Question 3 - What do other sites say about the information on the site?
Gain perspective about a web site by reading what another site tells you about it.
Cross-reference information and look for hidden bias.

Evaluation
Use the evaluation technique described above for both the group evaluation of the practice website & your individual website evaluation. You can fill out the handout for each and turn them in today.



Conclusion
As you continue to gather research for your paper, use this evaluative process to determine if a web-based resource is reliable and helpful for your paper.