Should I use this website for my scholarly research? Ask the 5 Ws!

Evaluate the website's legitimacy, accuracy, currency and authority for your scholarly research: Who? What? When? Where? Why? THINK CRITICALLY about each source. Your research is only as strong as the sources you use.

    WHO? Can you find the full name of the author of the website article/text?

    This is a required question

    Does the author appear to be an expert in the field you are researching?

    ➢ Look for the “About Us” link, a bio or mission statement. ➢ What are their academic degrees? Publications? Experience? ➢ Try a Google search of their name along with key subject words. Has s/he written other articles on the subject for other publications?
    This is a required question

    Is the publisher of the website a reputable body?

    ➢ Try a Google search of the website sponsor: how many other sites mention this organization? ➢ An authoritative organization should be mentioned on several other sites that are relevant to your topic ➢ Find out if the website is listed on ipl.org, the "Internet Public Library." ➢ This site selects, evaluates and organizes online web resources. Go to Google, enter organization's name or site URL then type a space, then type site:ipl.org ➢ EX: Organization Name site:ipl.org SEARCH ➢ If you get any hits, then your site is likely to be an authoritative one.
    This is a required question

    Can you contact the author of the site easily?

    ➢ Look for a Contact link.
    This is a required question

    WHAT? Is the information on the site fact, or opinion?

    ➢ Do they provide their sources? Citations? Links to their sources? (More likely facts) ➢ Is there loaded or emotional language? Do they make unsubstantiated claims? Can you detect bias? (More likely opinion) ➢ Try looking up the site on http://www.FactCheck.org or http://www.Snopes.com
    This is a required question

    Can you spot errors on the website, like typographical errors or broken links?

    ➢ Sites with these kinds of errors are usually put up by amateurs, not experts in their field.
    This is a required question

    WHEN? Was the article published or site updated within the past three years?

    This is a required question

    WHERE? Where is the information on the site hosted? (i.e., what is the URL server extension?)

    ➢ Academic or educational servers (.edu or .ac) are usually authoritative sources (but not always; check if student work). ➢ Governmental servers (.gov) are also typically authoritative. ➢ Commercial servers (.com) are rarely authoritative for scholarly research ➢ Non-governmental, non-profit organizations (.org) are sometimes authoritative. ➢ A website’s country can be identified (e.g., .au=Australia, .ca=Canada, .de=Germany, .fr=France, .uk=United Kingdom). ➢ This may help you decide whether a site appropriate for your research.
    This is a required question

    WHY? Or for what purpose does the website serve?

    ➢ Personal websites (blogs, social networking pages) are rarely authoritative sources. ➢ Sites designed to sell something are rarely appropriate for scholarly research. ➢ Read the article and ask yourself: ➢ Who is the intended audience for this website? ➢ Are they trying to sell something? ➢ Are they trying to sway my opinion or is there clear bias? ➢ If the answer is yes, then the website is probably not appropriate for scholarly research (unless you are gathering viewpoints for a persuasive essay)
    This is a required question

    FINAL EVALUATION

    This is a required question

    created by Jennifer Dimmick, 2010