Evaluating Websites

Evaluating website content for use in academic papers is as important as evaluating prints source content has always been.  It is helpful to have a checklist of criteria for such evaluation in mind whenever one is investigating a website Many such lists are available online.  One of the best is:

“Evaluating Web Pages:  Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask” (a University of California Berkeley Library Workshop Guide) This guide will help you use critical thinking skills to determine if a website will be appropriate for your need. 

Other librarians have also created criteria lists:

“Evaluating Information Found on the Internet” (from Johns Hopkins University Sheridan Libraries, by Elizabeth Kirk)

Five Criteria for Evaluating Web Pages” Includes a useful criteria chart in an article by Jim Kapoun entitled:  “Teaching Undergrads WEB Evaluation:  A Guide for Library Instruction.”  C & RL News (July/August 1998): 522-523.

These Websites Could Help You Answer the Following Questions:

“What if I have found the name of the person who created the website, but I’m not sure if she is a scholar or a personal promoter or a fraud?”
The UC Berkeley website listed above suggests that you look up the author’s name in Google or Yahoo! (#3 under “What Do Others Say?”) to discover who she is.  Several ways to enter a person’s name are listed.
“How do I know if an article I found on the Web is ‘academic/scholarly’ enough to satisfy my professor’s requirements?”
The Johns Hopkins list of criteria would be the best of these websites to answer this question.  Pay special attention to the “publishing body” and “authorship” sections.

Exemplary Websites for Theology and Religion

Experienced individuals in theological librarianship have created portals to collections of carefully evaluated websites for students, faculty, and librarians new to the field.  Some of the best are:

 “Wabash Center Internet Guide to Religion” (created and maintained by Charles Bellinger, Brite Divinity School Library) “A selective, annotated guide to a wide variety of electronic resources of interest to those who are involved in the study and practice of religion:  syllabi, electronic texts, electronic journals, web sites, bibliographies, liturgies, reference resources, software, etc.  The purpose of the Guide is to encourage and facilitate the incorporation of electronic resources into teaching.” (quoted from the website)

“Religious Studies Web Guide” (created by Saundra Lipton, University of Calgary Library and Cheryl Adams, Library of Congress) “This website, in existence since 1995, focuses on free internet resources of use to researchers involved in the academic study of religion.” (quoted from the website)

“Free Online Sources for the Study of Christianity” (maintained by Yale Divinity School Library) Includes Web gateways, encyclopedias, dictionaries, glossaries, facts and religious statistics, biblical studies resources, tools for sermon preparation, denominational resources, ethics resources, online journals and articles, online images, and other useful sites.

Recommended reading on evaluating websites:  Mathson, Stephanie M., and Michael G. Lorenzen.  “We Won’t Be Fooled Again:  Teaching Critical Thinking via Evaluation of Hoax and Historical Revisionist Websites in a Library Credit Course.”  College & Undergraduate Libraries 15 (2008): 211-230.