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GUIDE TO EVALUATING WEB SITES


With so much information now available through the Internet, it is important to remain critical and to keep an open mind. This is particularly so for anaphylaxis, where our reasoning can be coloured by the emotional surcharge of our hopes and fears. We include this article, which appeared in a past newsletter of Anaphylaxis Canada, for anyone who would like to explore this issue.

Evaluating the Quality of Internet Information
"It's a small world (wide web) after all´┐Ż"

The Internet is growing at a formidable rate. The information that it contains, however, is of variable quality. While some sites are true gems, many are mediocre and a few are dangerously inaccurate. Since there is no external review or regulation of the Internet, we need to outfit ourselves with tools that will enable us to recognize these differences in quality and to be our own critics. This is particularly important when our search is propelled by concern for someone that we love. It's only natural that hope or fear could weaken our objectivity.

There are several questions that can help us in our search:

Authorship
  • Is the author clearly indicated?
  • Is the author an expert in this area?
  • Is it clear what organization is sponsoring the site?
  • Are the organization's goals clearly stated?
  • Is the legitimacy of the organization verified by a phone number or postal address?
  • Is it clear whether this is a site from the national or local chapter of the organization and does the site have official approval of the organization?
Are there any biases?
  • Does the author have a vested interest in your support? (e.g. commercial or political motivation)
  • Does the author present different sides? Are the organization's biases clearly stated?
Is the information accurate?
  • Are the sources of information clearly referenced?
  • Is the information consistent with other sources? (especially with evaluated sources, such as peer-reviewed journals)
  • Is the site well-written and understandable, with grammar and spelling correct enough to suggest that care has been taken in preparing the site?
Is the subject well covered?
  • Is the topic presented/explored in enough depth?
Is the information current?
  • Is the publication date posted?
  • Has the site been recently updated?
Is the site well designed?
  • Is the site user friendly?
  • Are there useful links to other sites?

Using these criteria, the quality of a Website can be assessed according to the number of positive responses.

The above suggestions have been pooled from several sources and a limited bibliography is appended. There aren't any rules to help us evaluate new information, just critical thinking and practice. For a more complete discussion of Internet quality and its evaluation see Hope Tillman's Evaluating Quality on the Net.

by Jane Salter, originally appeared in Anaphylaxis Canada's Newsletter

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