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Evaluating Websites: Audience & Accuracy

Learn how to determine whether or not a web site is reliable.

Audience

All websites are written with a particular audience in mind. To determine this audience, you may need to do some investigating. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Is the level of the site geared toward general readers, students, or specialists in the field?
  • Does it use technical or scholarly language?
  • Does it assume the reader is well educated in one particular discipline?
  • Does the content of the site touch on several different topics or explore one issue or topic in detail?
  • Is the website biased towards a certain viewpoint?

Accuracy

Accuracy refers to whether a website provides verifiable and reliable factual information. Here are some questions you might ask as you investigate the accuracy of a site:

  • Are there errors in the information presented? Minor mistakes might be acceptable, but too many errors could undermine the information presented.
  • Are there theories that have since been disproven on the site? This is important to determine for scientific issues, and may indicate that the entire site is outdated.
  • Does the text generally agree with other sources for the same information?
  • Is there documentation or evidence presented for the information provided? Look for in-text references and citations or a link to research methods and materials consulted.
  • How is the site created, maintained, or managed? Is it a social media-based site like Wikipedia? A blog?