Using web pages as research resources is now common practice within academia, from undergraduate level right up to PhD, but although there are many reliable sources on the internet, there are some websites that provide inaccurate information.  When you are basing an academic argument on a web page, you want to be sure that it provides reliable evidence.

How can you be sure that a website is a good source?  You need to make your own evaluation of the website.  This is an opportunity to make use of the research training you have gained during your degree so far.

Reliability – accurate research source?


As you assess each website, here are some points to consider:

– Who is the author? Has the website been provided by an organization, company or academic body?  Is it written by a renowned expert in the field or a hobbyist?

– What was their intention in setting up the website? They might want to tell you about their research or give you easy access to online archives.

– Who are the expected users? Who has the author/originator designed this website for?

– How often is the material updated? Is there a lot of out-of-date material that should be archived?  If the web pages haven’t been updated for a while, it could be that the data presented fails to take recent research into account.

– Is the writing of a good quality? Are there lots of typos and obvious mistakes?  If you spot several spelling mistakes, for example, it could be that the author was fairly sloppy in compiling information.  Can you really rely on them?  Critical reading is always vital, whatever the form of resource material.

Site usability for research learning

To complete a full website critique you might also like to consider the usability of the site, including:-

– Has the site been well organized and does the layout make sense?  can you find your way around the site easily?

-Do the links work? Are the graphics relevant to the subject matter or are they just filling up space?

Further reading

Some good books to help you find out more are:

Cooke, A. A Guide to finding quality information on the Internet: selection and evaluation strategies (2001).

Dussart, G. Biosciences on the Internet: a student’s guide (2002).

Lawrence, P. Law on the Internet: a practical guide (2000).

As you become skilled at essay writing you will grow in your ability to carry out a successful website critiques.  This skill is a transferable one and no matter what industry you work in, this skill should remain invaluable.  Have you found any useful resources to help you critique websites?  Please let us know.  Post a comment below.