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Web Criteria

"The World Wide Web offers students, teachers and researchers the opportunity to find information and data from all over the world. Because so much information is available, and because that information can appear to be fairly anonymous, it is necessary to develop skills to evaluate what you find.

Most books, journal articles and other written materials have already been evaluated by editors, scholars, publishers or other experts in the field. However, when you are using the web there are no filters. Anyone can write a Web page. Documents of the widest range of quality, written by authors of the widest range of authority, are available on an even playing field. Excellent resources reside along side the most dubious" (Source: John Hopkins Library).

Below you will find some criteria that can be applied to web documents plus some links to some excellent sites that discuss Evaluating Web Sources.

Credibility

  1. Source: A site should display the institutions or organizations' name as well as the name and the title of the authors.
  2. Credentials: What are the author's credentials/qualifications? Are they in the same subject matter as the subject of the page?
  3. Conflict of interest: What is the relationship between the author and the sponsor of the page? Is there a possibility of bias?
  4. Context: What is the setting in which the health information is provided? Is the information part of an advertisement or endorsement?
  5. Currency: The date of the original document and the date of content posting should be displayed.
  6. Editorial Review Process: Does the site have an editorial process or a way of reviewing the information on its site and if so is the process described?

Content

  1. Accuracy: The validity of the information should be explained and the underlying data that led to the conclusions presented.
  2. Evidence: The information presented should reflect the principles of evidence-based medicine, including sound research and expert opinion.
  3. Completeness: A comprehensive review of a topic should be presented--a balanced presentation of all sides
  4. References: Are there related links or articles, or other evidence supporting the author's ideas, opinions, statements? Are these references peer-reviewed journal articles, established medical reference books or authoritative texts?

Disclosure

  1. Purpose of the site: The mission statement of the site should be clearly stated and the site should match its purpose.
  2. When a website asks for user input or registration, the purpose and use of obtaining that information should be disclosed.

Interactivity

  1. Feedback: A link to send criticism and comments to the site's sources should be included.
  2. Chat Rooms: Whether a moderator is present should be posted, along with a warning that the information may not be accurate. The moderator should be identified along with his expertise and affiliations.

Caveats

Sites that market services and products have different agendas than those that are primarily content providers. Additionally, users must be aware of the potential for mininformation and recognize the critical need to assess the quality of the information provided.

Note: The above criteria are based on "White Paper: Quality Assessment Criteria for Assessing the Quality of Health Information on the Internet." October, 1997.