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Religious Studies: Evaluating a website

Suggested resources for the study of religion at Tyndale University College & Seminary

Introduction

The internet can be a very powerful tool to use when conducting scholarly research. Because of the open nature of the internet, however, it is also especially important to be certain that you are getting your information from a credible and relevant source.

A good internet resource is one that is generated by a credible source and should contain information that is accurate, non-biased and verifiable. A good resource should also contain information that is relevant to your research interest.

A poor internet resource that is generated by an unidentifiable source and contains information that is outdated and makes inaccurate assumptions about the topic. A poor internet resource could also be one generated by a credible source, though contains information that is not relevant to your topic.

The checklist to the right is designed to help you locate the best internet resources for your research paper. Not every good site will contain all the items on the check list, however, asking some of the basic questions on the list can lead you to the best possible resource.

Checklist for Evaluating Websites

Authority

Who is producing the website and what are their credentials?

What institution is the website affiliated with? (i.e. university, organization, research center, etc.)

Does the site contain information about the author, the institution it's affiliated with, and the background of the author and/or institution?

Currency

When was the website updated last?

Is there information on when the site was "Updated Last" anywhere on the page?

Are there any "dead" and/or outdated links located anywhere on the site?

Scope

Does the content of the website cover just one aspect of a subject? Or does it cover multiple aspects of the subject?

Does the website cover just one point-of-view/perspective or multiple points-of-view/perspectives?

Is the scope or intended coverage of the topic clearly stated on the site?

Intent

What is the essential purpose of the website (i.e. educational, resource sharing, research, etc.)?

Is there any evidence of a potential bias in the content of the site (i.e. theological, ideological, political, etc.)?

Are the authors of the website trying to sell you something?

Audience

Who is the website written for? In other words, who is the intended audience?

Is the content and/or presentation of the website appropriate for the intended audience?

Is the intended audience clearly stated on the site?

Accuracy

What evidence of quality control in terms of content, facts, currency, etc. is there on the website?

Does the website provide references or a list of links that you may potentially use to cross-reference?

Does the content on the site reflect current knowledge to the best of your knowledge?

Interactivity

Do you need to download any additional software in order to view the content on the site?

Do you have to pay for a subscription or register for the site in order to view the content?

Does the website provide any contact information for the person and/or organization that developed the content?