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  4. Evaluating websites and content

Evaluating websites and content

It is easy enough to find information online but it is sometimes harder to assess whether it is reliable, current, or correct. There is no overall editorial control over the internet, so anyone can write anything they want, and can claim to be anyone they like.

There are three simple questions to ask yourself when looking at a website that can help you to work out whether you want to rely on the information it contains.

  1. Who is the author?
  2. Try to find some information on the site that tells you who the author is. This could be in an 'About us' section, or in the contact details, if any are given. Does the author have some authority in terms of the information on a site? Check that what they have written is objective: in other words, that it is not biased to one particular viewpoint.

  3. Do the aims of the site match the content?
  4. If the site does present biased information often the author will explain why this is so, and this may help you assess the reliability of the information.

  5. When was the content produced?
  6. Look for a date to indicate when it was last updated. This is especially important if you are looking for up-to-date information.

However, if you want to work through some training material, the OU Library recommends using the Internet Detective tutorial about finding quality information.