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Criminal Justice: Evaluating Web Resources

Resource guide for topic areas in criminology and criminal justice.

Evaluating Web Resources

Google and other research engines are frequently the first place that people look for information. The internet provides useful, current and interesting information as well as very biased, inaccurate or incomplete information.

The following criteria may help you determine whether to use a specific web site for information.

Criteria What to Evaluate
Authority
  • Look at the URL and determine the type of domain (.com, .edu, .gov, .org, etc.).
  • Identify who created the site; this information may or may not be listed on the website.
  • Find the author's or publisher's credentials; this information may or may not be listed on the website. On many websites, the section called 'About Us' will provide this information.
Scope
  • Consider the purpose of the site.
  • Find out when the site was created and how frequently it is updated. Check to see when was it last updated. Older information may or may not be useful to you.
  • Determine if the website provides unbiased information and/or covers cover more than one side of the topic.
Accuracy
  • Try to evaluate if the information factual or opinion.
  • Consider whether the information can be verified elsewhere. Wikipedia is an example of an informational website that you might use if you can verify the data or facts in another reliable source.

Sometimes you will have to look beyond the first page to evaluate the accuracy of websites. One way to check the source of a web page is to remove all the letters and numbers to the right of the domain ending; then consider what organization is sponsoring the web page.  

Main point:  Read carefully through a website before using any information.