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BMGT 205- Internet Research & Information Evaluation: Why Evaluate Websites?

Subject Guide

Greg Notess
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Montana State University Library

What is Information Literacy?

Information literacy is the ability to use a set of critical thinking skills necessary to search, locate, analyze, and evaluate information effectively. 

Information literacy means knowing when you need information, knowing where to look for it, how to find it, and how to evaluate it.

Information literacy skills are required not only for class assignments but also for lifelong learning, which goes far beyond the classroom. 

Why Evaluate Information Found on the World Wide Web?

With the advent of the World Wide Web, access to and availability of information has radically transformed the information gathering process. There is a lot of information out there, but not all is accurate, relevant, or even useful. Publication standards across different information mediums vary drastically and the authority of information found on the web is varied. So, learning effective information gathering and evaluation skillsets when researching on the Internet is especially valuable for use both in the classroom and later in life to filter out extraneous information.

This LibGuide is designed to get you thinking about Internet research strategies and information evaluation.

Techniques for Web Evaluation

Look at the URL

Questions to ask:

What is the most approriate information source for your topic? What kind of domain is used?

  • Commercial business site- .com or .net
  • Governmental site- .gov
  • Educational site- .edu
  • Organizational or nonprofit- .org

Look at the credibility of the publishing body by referencing the first part of the URL, which communicates the server operator. For example, the "wsj" in is the second-level domain name and indicates that the Wall Street Journal is the publishing body of material found on their website. The ".com" is the top-level domain, which communicates information about the publishing body, as noted above.

Who has registered the URL? Do you recognize the publisher? Is it a credible source?


Determining the authorship of a webpage is a crucial component of determining validity of information. The author should be knowledgeable and reliable. Below are questions to ask when evaluating the Authorship of a webpage:

  1. Who is the author? Is is a person, organization, or company?
  2. Can you find information about the author's education that would speak to their credibility? Can you determine if the author is an expert in his or her field?
  3. Is contact information available in the event that you'd want to contact the author, organization or company to verify credibility?

Purpose & Intended Audience

Researching the purpose of information by asking some of the questions below can inform whether the information is objective or biased. Questions to ask:

  1. What is the primary purpose and intention of this information? -- to inform? to sell? to persuade? to teach?
  2. Are the author's intentions and focus of information made clear somewhere on the page?
  3. Who is the intended audience? What is their level of expertise? Does the intended audiece exist in another time period? or perhaps regionally?


Accuracy refers to the information's reliability and truthfulness. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Can factual information be verified?
  2. Is the information supported by evidence?
  3. Has the information been edited or peer-reviewed?
  4. Are there typographical errors that raise questions about credibility?


Currency refers to the timeliness of the information with regard to your research topic. In some cases, information may be timeless while in others the nature of your topic is such that material is constantly evolving and, as a result, time-sensitive information is critical to well researched and relevant project. Be sure to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is the information current or out of date for your research?
  2. When was the information published or last updated?
  3. Are any links to other sites still functional? If not, this might indicate the site is not actively maintained and updated.