Evaluating Web Sites

Evaluating Web Sites - Lessons 1 & 2

 

Introduction:

 

Middle school offers students more freedom in reviewing and accessing Internet Web sites to locate information for classroom discussions and reports.  With this freedom comes the necessity to learn how to evaluate the Web sites that you access. 

 

Not all Web sites are created equally.  Not all sites are created by authorities in the field they address.  The first Web site that you may locate may not be the best one.  If you do not think the Web site is a quality site after using evaluative techniques that you have learned in these lessons, continue your search, and move on to a better site.


Lesson 1:

In Lesson 1, you are provided with five examples of spoof Web Sites. Open a word document on your computer and create a work page to take notes on. For each Web site, list your evidence or what made you realize the Web site did not contain all true information. Print a copy of your word document for your binder. Make sure your paper has your name on it!

  • Mankato, MN Home Page
  • Feline Reactions to Bearded Men
  • Dihydrogen Monoxide
  • Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency
  • Jackalope

  • Lesson 2:

    The Task

    Did you find it difficult to evaluate the Web links in lesson one? Most of these links were obviously spoofs. Other Web sites you may access may not be spoofs, but instead are more personal opinion or provide biased information. The next lesson will help you distinguish between good and bad Web sites. You will be working in groups of four to evaluate a group of Web pages on South Carolina.  Each person in the group will focus on reviewing the site from a different perspective.  You will rank the sites and compare your rankings with the members of your group. Print and use the evaluation/organizer form found here.


    Resources

    Each person in your group will be responsible for completing an evaluation chart based upon your perspective chosen from the following roles: 1) Content specialist, 2) Authority/credibility specialist, 3) Purpose specialist or 4) Design specialist.

     

    Your group will review all six of the following South Carolina Web sites:

     

     

    Decide amongst yourselves which role each of you will take first in evaluating the first Web site.  You will change roles with each different Web site evaluation.

     

    1. CONTENT SPECIALIST – Print out the worksheet and answer the following questions:

    • Does the topic cover the topic comprehensively? Accurately?
    • Can you understand what is being said?  Is it written above or below your level of understanding?
    • What is unique about this site?  Does it offer something others do not?
    • Are the links well-chosen?  Sufficient?
    • Currency: Can you tell: the date the information was created? The publication date? The date the material was last revised? Are these dates meaningful in terms of the subject matter?
    • Would you get better information in a book? An encyclopedia?
    • Would you include this site in your bibliography (list of references used)?

     

    2.  AUTHORITY/CREDIBILITY SPECIALIST – Print out the worksheet and answer the following questions:

    • Who is responsible for this site?  Who sponsors it? Hint: If not obvious, take the url and remove all additions up to the .com address or .org address.
    • What are the author’s credentials? Does the author provide an e-mail address?
    • Have the authors of the site cited their own sources? Are the sources documented appropriately?
    • What is the domain name? Does it end in .com, .gov., .edu., .org., .net?  Is it a personal page?
    • Is that a meaningful clue in evaluating the site?  (You can’t always judge a web page by its suffix. Some commercial sites provide solid information.  Some universities sites offer less-than-serious personal pages to graduate students).
    • Who else links to the site?  (You can perform a link check in AltaVista or Google by entering “link:webaddress” in the search box. What do other sites say about this one?
    • Would you include this site in your bibliography?

     

    3.  PURPOSE SPECIALIST – Print out the worksheet and answer the following questions:

    • Why was this site created?  (to persuade, inform, explain, sell, promote, parody, other?)
    • Is it a personal, commercial, government or organizational site?
    • Is there bias?  Is only one side of the argument presented? Does it appear that any information is purposely omitted?  Is there a hidden message?  Is it trying to persuade you or change your opinion?  Is it bias useful to you in some way?
    • Can you distinguish facts from opinion?
    • Would you include this site in your bibliography?

     

    4.  DESIGN SPECIALIST – Print out the worksheet and answer the following questions:

    • Is the site easy to navigate (user friendly)?
    • Is there a well labeled contents area?
    • Do all the design elements (graphics, art, buttons, etc.) enhance the message of the site?  Is there consistency in the basic formats of each page?
    • Are there any errors in spelling or grammar?
    • Do the pages appear clean, uncluttered?
    • Do the links on the site work?
    • Is there advertising on the site?  Pop-up ads?
    • Would you include this site in your bibliography?

    Remember to do the following: 

    1.  Each student will label his organizer with his name and role.

    2.  Each student will complete his organizer answering the questions from the role assigned.

    3.  As you examine each site, record any information in your chart/organizer.   Begin to rank the sites 1 through 6, with 1 being the best. 

    4.  Chose a different group leader to conduct a review of each Web site.  He/she should see that each specialist discusses his findings and ratings.

    5.  Assign a rank to all 6 of the Web sites with 1 being the best and 6 being the worse.

     


    Evaluation

    Your work will be placed in your binder.  You will be evaluated on your group work, your completed organizer, and your participation in large group discussion.  Make sure your group is able to defend its choices in the discussion ranking the sites.


    Conclusion

    You will find yourself using the Internet for more information now that you are in Middle School.  Remember that the Internet is only one of a variety of resources that are available when you are given an assignment.  Books, journals, video, and other sources are available as well.  Evaluating information is a skill you will be using throughout your life.

    Credits

    Special thanks to Ms. Valenza, librarian at Springfield High School for her suggested list of questions and Internet links on evaluating Web sites. SHS library.

    Created March 29, 2004 by Mary M. Silgals, MLS.