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Research Guides

Eastern Washington University Libraries

English 101 - Infosphere

For the Infosphere Essay and Researched Analysis/Argument Paper

Evaluating Websites

Finding information today is hardly challenging. Type in some terms into a search engine and boom! The challenge is to find high quality information that meets your specific needs. Be very picky!

Here are some questions you should ask yourself when you are sifting through your web search results, looking for gems of information.

Authority - Who wrote it or who is responsible for it? Why should I care what they think?

First, determine who is most responsible for the information: the individual author or the organization. Unless the information is scholarly (see below for criteria for that), it is more important to judge the authority of the organization who published the information on their website, rather than the individual(s) who wrote it.

Look for an "About Us" tab or link. 

Try looking at the top or the bottom footer on the homepage. Determine how long the organization has been around, what their mission is, etc. Why should anyone value their viewpoint? Note: Sometimes the organization isn't very detailed, because they assume you already know all about them.

What do others think? 

Realistically, anyone can say anything they want about themselves. What's more important is what others think.

  • Google the name of the organization. See what others are saying about them. If a Wikipedia entry doesn't pop up, it's clearly not an important organization! 
  • Use NewsGuard. This is a free extension on Microsoft Edge. They offer detailed information on over 8,000 news sites and organizations. See below for how to add NewsGuard to your laptop

Date - When was it written?

How important this criterion is depends on your topic. Your instructor may set limits on the date range you may use for your sources. The harder part for some websites is locating a date...

Comprehensiveness - How complete and balanced is the information?

Some sources will be relevant and useful, but do not give the reader a complete picture of the issue and ramifications, such as a blog post that is slanted to a particular perspective. The more comprehensive sources (and therefore the lengthiest!) will be especially useful at the beginning of your research, when you are still absorbing as much as possible about your issue.

But just because a source is not balanced does not mean it would not be useful. It just means you need to find sources with other viewpoints as well.

Evidence - What evidence does the source use to back up assertions? Is the information sound? How does it compare with other sources?

This is the most important criterion to judge your source. But it is the one that takes the most time, because you have to know enough about your issue to judge the soundness.

Adding NewsGuard to Web Searches

NewsGuard thoroughly evaluates over 8,000 online news sites. Use Microsoft Edge browser and download the extension for free. (Otherwise it's a subscription service, $4.95/month.) Use it on laptops. (NewsGuard claims it will work on the app version on mobile devices, but it isn't in the settings for Apple iOS.)

Adding NewsGuard to Microsoft Edge

Within Microsoft Edge, click on Microsoft Edge in the toolbar, then Microsoft Edge Extensions. Search newsguard and click to add it.

When you click the Get button, it prompts you to create an account in NewsGuard. Click the Sign In button, top right corner, and either create an account or sign in with an existing Apple, Facebook, or Google account.

Once you've created a Newsguard account, it appears to want a credit card for the subscription. Ignore that, scroll down to the bottom, and it says Not ready yet? Maybe later. Click the Maybe later link, and it will add the extension.

Using NewsGuard

Once you have NewsGuard installed, you'll see a blue icon with 0-100% to the results list in Google, or at the top next to the URL when you are on a site that NewsGuard has evaluated. The bigger the percentage, the higher the credibility score. Hover over the icon to bring up a short evaluation of how well it follows journalistic standards. Click on See the full Nutrition Label to view a detailed analysis, with references. (You may also run into a gray icon for platforms like YouTube, or an orange icon for satirical sites like The Onion.)

results of hovering over the Newsguard icon, previewing the full nutrition label