Because anyone can create a web page it is important to to distinguish reliable information from bad information or misinformation on the web.
The author should be held to the same degree of credentials and authority that one would expect from something published in a reputable print resource (book, journal article, reputable newspaper, etc.).
Here are five simple criteria for evaluating information on the internet:
- Authority - What are the author's credentials? Is the author a well-known scholar in the field? Is the author's contact information provided (phone, email, etc.)? Is the author affiliated with an educational institution or credible organization? Who is responsible for the domain? Pages originating from an educational institution (.edu) or the government (.gov) are reliable. Personal pages or pages originating from .net or .com are not necessarily bad but you should be more wary and spend more time verifying the information.
- Accuracy - Is the information factual? Can the information be verified through other sources? Does the information seem credible? Is the web page free of grammatical and spelling errors?
- Purpose and Coverage - What is the purpose of the information? Does the page exist to provide information or to sell a point of view? What is the tone of the page? Is it ironic? Does it ridicule? Is the information comprehensive? Is it geared toward a particular audience?
- Bias - Is the page free of bias? Does it present an objective view of the topic? Is the language biased in any way? Do you perceive a conflict of interest in terms of the content or presentation of the topic?
- Date - How old is the information presented? When was the page last updated? Is there any indication about the currency of the information? Are the links on the page valid?