Criteria for Evaluation of Internet Information Resources

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This is a "toolbox" of criteria that enable Internet information sources to be evaluated for use in libraries, e.g. for inclusion in resource guides, and helping users evaluate information found. Comments are welcomed by Alastair Smith. Other resources providing criteria are listed in the Evaluation of Information Sources section of the Information Quality WWW Virtual Library Another version of these criteria are at:

Smith, Alastair G. (1997) Testing the Surf: Criteria for Evaluating Internet Information Resources. The Public-Access Computer Systems Review 8, no. 3 http://info.lib.uh.edu/pr/v8/n3/smit8n3.html ________________________________________

Outline
Scope
oBreadth
oDepth
oTime
oFormat
Content
oAccuracy
oAuthority
oCurrency
oUniqueness
oLinks made to other resources
oQuality of writing
Graphic and multimedia design
Purpose
oAudience
Reviews
Workability
oUser friendliness
oRequired computing environment
oSearching
oBrowsability and organisation
oInteractivity
oConnectivity
Cost
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Scope
What items are included in the resource? What subject area, time period, formats or types of material are covered? Is the scope stated, e.g through meta information such as an introduction, or only implied? Does the actual scope of the resource match expectations? Aspects of the scope include:

Breadth
Are all aspects of the subject covered?

Depth
To what level of detail in the subject does the resource go?

Time
Is the information in the resource limited to certain time periods?

Format
Are certain kinds of Internet resources (for example telnet, Gopher, FTP) excluded?

Content
Is the information factual, or opinion? Does the site contain original information, or simply links? Sites can be useful both as information resources in themselves, and as links to other information. However users can be frustrated by lists of resources which look promising, but turn out to simply contain more links. Is the resource an integral resource, or has it been abstracted from another source, perhaps losing meaning or links in the process? Specific aspects related to the content include the accuracy, authority, currency and uniqueness of a resource.

Accuracy
Is the information in the resource accurate? You may wish to check this against other resources, or by checking some information about which you have special knowledge. Are there political or ideological biases? The Internet has become a prime marketing and advertising tool, and it is advisable to ask "what motivation does the author have for placing this information on the Net". Frequently the answer is that the information is placed to advertise, or support a particular point of view.

Authority
Does the resource have some reputable organisation or expert behind it? Does the author have standing in the field? Are sources of information stated? Is the information verifiable? Can the author be contacted for clarification or to be informed of new information? Examing the URL can give clues to the authority of a source. For instance a tilde "~" usually indicates a personal web directory, rather than part of the organisation's official web site.

Currency
How frequently is the resource updated, or is it a static resource? Are dates of update stated, and do these correspond to the information in the resource? Does the organisation or person hosting the resource appear to have a commitment to ongoing maintenance and stability of the resource? Browsers may allow you to view the date of creation and modification of a file (in Netscape View|Document Info). Remember that this may not be the date that the actual information was created or reviewed.

Uniqueness
Is the information in this resource available in other forms (for example other sites, Gopher, WWW, print, CD-ROM)? What advantages does this particular resource have? If the resource...
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