You've clicked through to a web site, but how do you know the page you've landed on is actually any good for your purpose?
While there are a few exceptions in academia when "popular" site like Facebook or Blogger might be acceptable, most of the time you need resources with high-quality, reputable, and substantive information. So take the following steps:
Gather identifying data:
Ask basic questions:
Evaluate the quality of the information. This is critical in academia!:
You don't need to consult this list every single time you look at a web site. But if you have this type of expectation in the back of your mind, it helps inform your gut reaction of either "this-is-good" or "something's-not-quite-right," which may mean it is not suitable for academic level work.
Adapted with permission from the UC Berkeley - Teaching Library Internet Workshops page on "Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply and Questions to Ask"
We've provided links in other parts of the tutorial, so why did we refuse to link to the StormFront site? Librarians and other information professionals frequently use it to illustrate how Google works. That site also happens to be horrible, offensive, inaccurate and full of wrong information. And yet ...
It is regularly in the top ten Google search results for Martin Luther King or Martin Luther King Jr.
It's in the top ten because of how Google gathers and ranks web pages. The white supremacy organization that hosts that page convinced their membership and anyone else they could think of to link to the page. Why? Because one of the most important ranking pieces for the Google algorithm is how many OTHER pages link to a given page and how often they do so. So guess what: we aren't going to link it, and we're not going to include the URL more than once so that it doesn't rise even further in the Google rankings. Unfortunately, one of the reasons it persists in the top ten is because well-intentioned people use it as an example and link to it, thus perpetuating the high rank. We're not going to do that.
Think about this example as you review your Google results list. This is why you need to both evaluate that first set of results carefully and also go beyond the first ten results.
If the web site you've landed on is actually "formally published" -- that is, edited and vetted by a reputable source like an article from Time or a PDF of a book chapter -- you evaluate it as if it were in paper form. The evaluation process on this page is for things put on the web without a formal editing process, or if you're not sure where they come from.