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Article: Thinking Critically about World Wide Web Resources
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Thinking Critically about World Wide Web Resources

Esther Grassian, UCLA College Library

The World Wide Web has a lot to offer, but not all sources are equally valuable or reliable. Here are some points to consider. For additional points regarding Web sites for subject disciplines, see Thinking Critically about Discipline-Based World Wide Web Resources.

Content and Evaluation
  • Who is the audience?
  • What is the purpose of the Web Page & what does it contain?
  • How complete and accurate are the information and the links provided?
  • What is the relative value of the Web site in comparison to the range of information resources available on this topic? (Note:Be sure to check with a librarian.)
    • What other resources (print & non-print) are available in this area?
    • What are the date(s) of coverage of the site and site-specific documents?
    • How comprehensive is this site?
      • What are the link selection criteria if any?
      • Are the links relevant and appropriate for the site?
      • Is the site inward-focused, pointing outward, or both?
      • Is there an appropriate balance between inward-pointing links (inlinks i.e., within the same site) & outward-pointing links (outlinks i.e., to other sites)?
      • Are the links comprehensive or do they just provide a sampler?
      • What do the links offer that is not easily available in other sources?
      • Are the links evaluated in any way?
      • Is there an appropriate range of Internet resources -- e.g., links to gophers?
      • Is multimedia appropriately incorporated?
  • How valuable is the information provided in the Web Page (intrinsic value)?
Source and Date
  • Who is the author or producer?
  • What is the authority or expertise of the individual or group that created this site?
    • How knowledgeable is the individual or group on the subject matter of the site?
    • Is the site sponsored or co-sponsored by an individual or group that has created other Web sites?
  • Is any sort of bias evident?
  • When was the Web item produced?
  • When was the Web item mounted?
  • When was the Web item last revised?
  • How up to date are the links?
  • How reliable are the links; are there blind links, or references to sites which have moved?
  • Is contact information for the author or producer included in the document?
Structure
  • Does the document follow good graphic design principles?
  • Do the graphics and art serve a function or are they decorative?
  • Do the icons clearly represent what is intended?
  • Does the text follow basic rules of grammar, spelling and literary composition?
  • Is there an element of creativity, and does it add to or detract from the document itself?
  • Can the text stand alone for use in line-mode (text only) Web browsers as well as multimedia browsers, or is there an option for line-mode browsers?
  • Is attention paid to the needs of the disabled -- e.g., large print and graphics options; audio; alternative text for graphics?
  • Are links provided to Web subject trees or directories -- lists of subject-arranged Web sources?
  • How usable is the site? Can visitors get the information they need within a reasonable number of links (preferably 3 or fewer clicks)?
Other
  • Is appropriate interactivity available?
  • When it is necessary to send confidential information out over the Internet, is encryption (i.e., a secure coding system) available? How secure is it?
  • Are there links to search engines or is a search engine attached to (embedded in) the Web site?

About the Author
Esther Grassian holds a MLS in Library Science from UCLA and currently is the Instructional Services Coordinator, UCLA College Library. Her professional background includes teaching library and information sciences, and research to create and experiment with use of an online database consisting of merged ready reference file data. Her publications pertaining to various aspects of library science include refereed journal articles, book chapters, books, and many Web Pages.

Created by Esther Grassian, UCLA College Library @ 1997 Regents of the University of California.
Permission is granted for unlimited non-commercial use of this guide.
Reproduced by the CMSC with permission.

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