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INTL 424: Politics of the United Nations (Dr. DeMars)

1. Source

Consider the source of a webpage. 

  • Who created the website? It it signed or anonymous?
  • Is the website affiliated with a college, a news organization, or a professional organization?
  • Can you contact the creator of the website?

If the source cannot be determined, tread very carefully!

2. Authority

Once you have determined the creator of website, consider the authority of the site.

  • Is this person an expert on the topic at hand?
  • Does the creator have personal experience with the topic, or are they restating others' opinions?
  • Where does the creator's authority come from - academic study, personal experience, or some other area?

3. Currency

Depending on your topic, you made need information from a specific time period - either the most recent news possible, or information published before a certain date or event. 

  • Is the information on the website up to date?
  • When was the page last updated? Can you tell?
  • Is the website republishing old information, such as old newspaper articles?

4. Accuracy

Accuracy can be difficult to determine on the internet since anyone can publish anything they wish, and there are no accepted standards for citations online. Here are some questions to ask yourself about websites:

  • Does this website cite any sources? Do they tell you where they get their information?
  • Can you confirm the claims the website makes in respected sources like books or news sites?
  • If the website is a news source, does the site have a history of jumping to conclusions and then posting retractions?

5. Bias

Many websites present strong opinions and might ignore certain facts that contradict their positions. Ask yourself these questions to determine the site's potential for bias:

  • Is the website trying to convince you of a certain position?
  • Is the site soliciting donations for its cause or trying to get you to buy something?
  • Are the language  and graphics used neutral, or do they elicit a strong reaction in one direction?

Biased websites can be excellent examples of media depictions, grassroots reactions, or evidence of what kinds of arguments are used when dealing with sensitive topics - just be careful to check any facts that the website presents before using them as evidence in a paper.

6. Depth

Websites vary greatly in terms of how deep their treatment of a topic goes. When looking for scholarly material online, ask yourself:

  • Does this website give me enough information, or does it just gloss over my topic?
  • Is this the best website I could use, or are their better, deeper sites out there?
  • When my professor looks at this website, will he or she think the site is scholarly enough to use?

7. Appearance

Look aren't everything, but it says something about the care put into a site's creation if a website is a mess of broken links, clashing fonts, and dancing gifs. 

  • Can you navigate the site easily? Do the links work?
  • Does the site look like something an authority on the topic would be proud to call his or her own?

For my favorite badly designed website, click here. Much of the internet looked like this in the late 1990s. Be glad that you live today!