Evaluating Online Information
Points to consider when evaluating online information.
Unlike information in peer-reviewed journals or academic texts, information on the web is not checked for its accuracy, so it’s important to critically assess information you find there.
- Information should be balanced and presented in a logical way and at an appropriate level. Avoid sites using emotive language.
- Look for confirmation that information is accurate – such as references to data and findings.
- Look for evidence of peer/editorial review – not always available, although some sites have an editorial board which reviews content.
- Look for editorial policy – often found in the ‘about us’ section of the site.
- Verify information against other sources - such as content in current journals, reports, published statistics etc.
- Is the information free of grammatical/spelling mistakes?
- Who has produced the content? Is it an academic institution, a government site, a professional organisation?
- Is it easy to find out who is responsible? Is there an ‘about us’ section?
- Has the website been produced by a reputable organisation?
- If the information has been produced by an individual, is the author recognised in his/her field? – Look up the author’s name in a database like Pubmed to see what papers he/she has written; or enter the name of the author in a search engine; or check biographical sources. Check the author’s qualifications.
- Can you contact the author/organisation? – Contact information, such as e-mail address, should be easily available to the reader. Look at the domain for clues: .gov = government body .ac / .edu = educational .org = non-profit organisations/professional associations .com / .co
- How up-to-date is the information? Content can give an indication of currency, e.g. ‘According to the 2018 study, ...’
- When was the website last updated?
- Check copyright dates – Check the bottom of webpages for copyright information.
- Check information included on the website against other current work in the field.
Who is the intended audience? Is it produced for scholarly use or for the general public?
- Are cited sources clearly listed?
- Are references from reputable sources?
- Site organisation
- Is the site easy to navigate?
- Is information provided as to how resources that the site links to are selected?
References: Abate M.A., Blommel M.L., 2013. Drug information and literature evaluation, Remington Education. London: Pharmaceutical Press
Craan, F., Oleske, D.M., 2002. Medical information and the internet: Do you know what you are getting? Journal of Medical Systems, [e-journal] 26(6). Available through: The RPS website: www.rpharms.com/resources/elibrary