Unit 4 Practice Using the Indexes, Directories, and Search Engines; Evaluating Websites


Evaluating Websites


When you do research, you will use books, newspapers, magazines, academic journals, and Internet resources. Most of the print resources are reviewed and edited by experts in their fields, so you can usually use them as support for your research without worrying that the information may be incorrect. On the other hand, a lot of the information on the Internet has not been reviewed or edited by experts even though it may look very convincing. Many beautiful websites are created by elementary school students, for example.

You need to evaluate the web sites you find. Here is what to look for : Author

Look at the bottom of the page. The author should be an expert.

Questions to ask yourself: Does the author include information about his/her experience and qualifications in the field? Is he or she an expert? If there is no author, you will need to base your evaluation on the institution or business name.

Institution or Business Name

Look at the top or bottom of the page. The purpose of the institution or business should be to inform or explain something.

Questions to ask yourself: What connection does the institution or business seem to have with the topic of the web site? What connection does the author seem to have with the institution or business? Does the web site seem to be selling something? Does the web site seem to be providing a service such as education? Does the web site seem to be trying to persuade you to do something? Radio, television, newspaper, and news magazine services, U.S. government agencies (.gov), and universities (.edu) are usually reliable sources.

Homepage Link

Look at the top or bottom of the page. The links may tell you something about the purpose of the web page.

Questions to ask yourself: Is the institution or business part of a larger organization with a separate homepage? What motivation does this organization have for having a web site?

The Web Site Date

Look at the bottom of the page. The web site should be updated frequently.

Questions to ask yourself: When was the web site last updated? How important is it to your research that the web site be updated frequently?


Practice Finding, Using, and Evaluating Web sites


Exercise 1

Directions: Imagine that you are a student writing a research paper on different types of bridges. You have heard that there is a really interesting web site called "NOVA: Super Bridge." Find the web site and evaluate it.

1. Start at your home page. Type http://www.yahoo.com/ into the location box and press RETURN.

2. Use search box in Yahoo! to find the web site.

3. Click the Super Bridge web site. Evaluate the web site according to the evaluation criteria. Look for information about the following and write down what you find. Author

Can you find the name of an author for this web page? Click NOVA at the top of the page. Can you tell what it is? Who produced this web page?

Institution or Business Name

Scroll to the bottom of the NOVA page and click on WGBH. What is it? What TV programs do they produce? What is NOVA?

Homepage Link

Click PBS Online. What is it?

The Web Site Date

Click BACK to the NOVA Super Bridge page and click on the Teachers link. What do they offer here? Click BACK to the NOVA: Super Bridge page and choose Build a bridge.

A. Survey the 4 sites. What are they?

B. Answer the following questions about one kind of bridge:

Arch Bridges: How does an arch bridge carry weight?

What kinds of materials should arch bridges be made of?

Why is the Pont du Guard Bridge famous?

What materials do we use today?

How much space do most modern arch bridges span?

What are the two methods used to build arch bridges?

Why is the Nalchez Trace Bridge unusual?

C. Do you think this kind of information could be useful to you in writing your research paper?

Evaluate the website. On the basis of your evaluation, do you think this web site could be useful to a student writing a research paper about bridges? How can you tell if it is reliable?



The NOVA website in Exercise 1 meets all the criteria of a useful, reliable website. Nova is a reputable Public Broadcasting Service program that has been well researched by experts.


Exercise 2

Directions: Imagine that you are writing a research paper about alternative medicine. This time we will use a different search engine to find information for your topic.

1. Start at your home page. Type http://www.altavista.com/ into the location box and press RETURN.

2. Find the search box, type in alternative medicine and click FIND.

3. When the screen changes, scroll down to see the results.

4. Choose MedLinePlus: Alternative Medicine (the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). URL: altmed.od.nih.gov

When the screen changes, type in therapeutic touch and click Search MedLine Plus .

When the screen changes, choose one or two of the results to evaluate. Can you find any that you would evaluate as useful and reliable? What makes you think so?

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5. Go BACK to the Altavista search page. Type in aromatherapy. Look at some of the choices. Did you find anything useful and reliable for your research? How do you know?

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6. Go BACK to the Altavista search page. Type in herbology. Look at some of the articles. Did you find anything useful and reliable for your research? How do you know?

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Write about evaluating web sites. How can you tell if a web site will be a good source for your research ?

Write your answer in the space provided on the next page. Then send your ideas to me via e-mail.Click Here.


Helen H. Schmidt
Instructor, Intensive English and Orientation Program
Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011, U.S.A.
Email:hschmidt@iastate.edu

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Helen Hoyt Schmidt, Instructor
Intensive English and Orientation Program
Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011
E-Mail:hschmidt@iastate.edu

Last update: October, 2006