Evaluating Websites

§ Introduction

FPC students rely heavily on resources from the web as they study and research. Websites are added to the internet at an unprecedented rate. Finding the best information is not always easy. How do you know if a website has the best information for your needs? Here are some tips and tricks that will help:
  • Become familiar with several search tools and the unique features that make them valuable.
  • Use a variety of search tools for the best results, because each has a different approach.
  • Use the websites purchased for use by students in our schools--they are tried and true.

§ Website Evaluation

Look for websites with these qualities:
  • Information is reliable and accurate
  • Information is current
  • Information is unbiased
  • Contributors/Editors have credentials
  • Website design makes it usable
When using the web, your instinct is your best friend. If you are unsure if a site is reliable, it probably isn't.
Choose resources carefully!

§ The Assignment

You will work in a group to evaluate web pages on a topic. Each team member will examine a different aspect of the websites. After several sites are examined, you will compare and rank them, and present your findings to the class.

§ Resources

Each team will be assigned a group of websites. Each team member will examine the website from a unique perspective. Using the assigned criteria, you will rank the sites.

Bioethics and Cloning http://bioethics.net/resources/index.php?sid=218652948&t=sub_pages&cat=2
The Life and Death of Cloning http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200205u/int2002-05-22
Genetics and Public Policy Center http://www.dnapolicy.org/
Americans for Cloning Elvis http://americansforcloningelvis.bobmeyer99.com/
The President's Council on Bioethics http://www.bioethics.gov/
National Bioethics Advisory Commission http://bioethics.georgetown.edu/nbac/pubs.html
Cloning Information, Cloning Ethics http://www.indianchild.com/human_cloning.htm

Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights http://www.no-smoke.org/
RJ Reynolds http://www.rjrt.com/
Children Opposed to Smoking Tobacco http://costkids.org/
American Lung Association (Tobacco Control) http://www.lungusa.org/
Tobacco Cessation: You Can Quit Smoking Now! http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/tobacco/#new
Phillip Morris USA Helping Reduce Underage Tobacco Use http://www.philipmorrisusa.com/en/cms/Responsibility/Helping_Nav/Helping_Reduce_Underage_Tobacco_Use/default.aspx
Tobacco Free Kids http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/index.php
Tobacco Free Initiative http://www.who.int/tobacco/en/

Lakeview Health Systemshttp://www.alcoholrehabprogram.com/
Drug Free Alliancehttp://www.drugfreeactionalliance.org/
Centers for Disease Control and Preventionhttp://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/
Health Guruhttp://college.healthguru.com/content/browse/cid/103/sid/223/Alcohol_Drugs/Alcohol_Drinking_Hangover
NIAA http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body

§ Process

Your team will evaluate the assigned websites. Select a team member one of the specialties below.

Content specialist

  • Does the site cover the topic comprehensively?
  • Can you understand what is being said?
  • Is it written above or below your level of understanding?
  • What is unique about this site? Does it offer something others do not?
  • Are the links well-chosen? sufficient?
  • Currency: Can you tell the date the information was created? the publication date? the date the material was last revised? Are these dates meaningful in terms of the subject matter?
  • Would you get better information in a book? an encyclopedia?
  • Would you include this site in your bibliography? Why or why not?


  • Who is responsible for this site? Who sponsors it? Hint: truncate each section of the URL back until you are able to find the sponsor.
  • What are his/her credentials?
  • Have the authors of this site cited their own sources? Are the sources documented appropriately?
  • What is the domain name? Does it end in .com, .gov, .edu, .org, .net? Is it a personal page? Hint: Look for a ~ (tilde) in the URL.
  • Is that a meaningful clue in evaluating the site? Some commercial sites provide solid information. Some university sites offer personal pages to students that are opinion rather than fact.
  • Who else links to the site? (You can perform a link check in AltaVista or Google by entering "link:webaddress" in the search box. Is it linked to reliable sites? What do other sites say about this one?
  • Would you include this site in your bibliography? Why or why not?


  • Why was this site created? (to persuade, inform, explain, sell, promote, parody, other?)
  • Is it a personal, commercial, government, or organization site?
  • Is there any bias? Is only one side of the argument presented? Does it appear that any information is purposely omitted? Is there a hidden message? Is it trying to persuade you or change your opinion? Is the bias useful to you in some way?
  • Can you distinguish facts from opinion?
  • Would you include this site in your bibliography? Why or why not?


  • Is the site easy to navigate (user-friendly)?
  • Is there a well-labeled contents area?
  • Do all the design elements (graphics, art, buttons, etc.) enhance the message of the site? Is there consistency in the basic format of each page?
  • Are there any errors in spelling or grammar?
  • Do the pages appear clean, uncluttered?
  • Do the links on the site work?
  • Would you include this site in your bibliography? Why or why not?

  1. Each student in the group should complete his/her own organizer through the perspective they are assigned.
  2. As you examine each site, record any relevant information in your chart/organizer. Begin to rank the sites 1 through 5, with 1 being the best. It may be easier to think to yourself, "Which are the two best sites in the set, which are the two worst."
  3. Each group should select a recorder to take notes on group discussion and a discussion leader, whose job it will be to make sure each member gets a chance to contribute and to the lead the group toward reaching a consensus about the best and worst sites.
  4. Be prepared to discuss/compare your group's findings and rankings with the rest of the class during the class discussion.

Helpful Websites

Who Is Source http://whois.domaintools.com/
Use this website to look up the registration of the domain name.
Wayback Machine http://www.archive.org/web/web.php
View archived pages of a website.
Altavista http://www.altavista.com/
Type link: and then a website URL and view all websites linking to that URL.
Hint: When a website has a tilde ~, it indicates a personal directory.
HON: Health on the Net Foundation
Search for trustworthy health websites, certified by this foundation.

§ Evaluation

You will be evaluated on your completed organizer, your group work, your participation in large group discussion, using a rubric. Your group must defend its choices in the discussion ranking the sites.

§ Conclusion

Evaluating information is a skill you will be using throughout your lifetime. The Internet is only one of a multitude of information options. Remember that journals, books, videos and other sources are available as well.

Adapted from Joyce Valenza, 99
Lorna Moschetti 09 edited 2012