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HIST 300 - Introduction to Historical Studies: Website Evaluation

Why Evaluate?

Whether researching for an assignment or personal curiosity the internet can be a very quick and rewarding fountain of information; it can also be a quagmire of personal opinions and misinformation.  All information you gather from the internet should be given some scrutiny, printed materials like those collected in a library go through an evaluative and editorial process before they are published and collected in libraries.  The Internet has removed the restrictions and editorial process typical for print materials; anyone can publish on the web. 

To insure that the Web sites you use as information sources are acceptable, you should ask questions about those sites. The STAAR method of web page evaluation has been created to help you find quality (or 5 STAAR) websites.

Information, Propaganda, Misinformation & Disinformation

The Information and it's counterfeits document will help you be able to distinguish real information from its three look-a-likes, or counterfeits: propaganda, misinformation and disinformation. Understanding the counterfeits will enable you to become a much more critical consumer of information.

Reading the URL

When evaluating a website there are several things to take into consideration, one of the first things to look at is the URL including the domain suffix this can tell you several things about the website, the creator, the audience, the purpose and sometimes even the country of origin. 

STAAR Evaluation Method

Is your website a S.T.A.A.R.? Can you tell if a web page is worth using or not? Look at the 5 points in the S.T.A.A.R. evaluation method to see how it stacks up. Give the website your own personal rating. The S.T.A.A.R. evaluation method was created by Laura Karas and the Librarians at University of South Carolina Upstate based on both the A.B.C. and the C.R.A.A.P. methods of evaluating websites.

  • S = Slant
  • T = Topical
  • A = Authority
  • A = Accuracy
  • R = Relevance

For print copies please look to the STAAR Forms box below.

STAAR Website Evaluation Method

Is your website a S.T.A.A.R.?

Can you tell if a web page is worth using or not?

Look at the 5 points in the STAAR evaluation method to see how it stacks up.

Give the website your own personal rating.


Slant – What is the Slant (viewpoint) of the website?

  1. Is the information unbiased and free from prejudice without promoting a specific personal, political, religious, and or ideological viewpoint?
  2. ˜Is the purpose of the page stated? Is the message clearly stated?
    • Is the purpose to: inform? teach? demonstrate?
    • Is the purpose to: entertain? sell? persuade?
  3. Are there editorials and if so are the editorials clearly labeled?
  4. ˜  Is advertising content vs. informational content easily distinguishable?
  5. ˜  Are both sides of a controversial issue presented?

Topical & Timely – Is the Website up-to-date? Is the material relevant to the topic?

  1. ˜When was the information gathered/created? Is the material up-to-date?
    • Is the information provided the type of information that dates quickly (e.g. statistics, technological information, etc.)?
    • Is this a first edition or not? Further editions indicate a source has been revised and updated to reflect changes in knowledge, include new information.
  2. ˜When was the information posted?
  3. ˜When was the website revised last? (check for a date at the bottom of the page)
  4. ˜Is there evidence of newly added information or links?
  5. ˜Are the links functional and up-to-date, reflecting current information?

Accuracy – What is the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the information on the website?

  1. ˜  Where does the information come from?
    • Are references / citations provided?
    • Are the original sources of information listed?
    • Can you verify any of the information in independent sources or from your own knowledge?
  2. ˜  Has the information been reviewed or refereed by experts in the field?
  3. ˜  Does the language or tone seem biased?
  4. ˜  Is the webpage complete or is it missing information/pages?
  5. ˜  Are there spelling, grammar, or other typos?

Authority – Who is the authority or expert associated with the website?

  1. Can you tell who is the author / creator / sponsor?
  2. ˜  Are the creator’s credentials listed?
    • Is the creator a teacher/expert in the field or student of the topic?
    • Does the creator have a credible reputation?
    • Is the creator affiliated with an organization, corporation, government agency, university etc.?
  3. ˜  Is there contact information, such as a phone number, e-mail address etc.?
  4. ˜  Has the creator published works in traditional formats such as books or journal articles?
  5. ˜  Is the website supported or sponsored by an organization?
    • Is the author affiliated with this organization?
    • Is there advertising for the organization on the web page?
    • What does the domain name/URL reveal about the source of the information, if anything? (e.g. .com .edu .gov .org .net)

Relevance – Does the content of the website have direct bearing on the topic? Is it pertinent? How well does it answer the research question?

  1. ˜  What is the scope of the information? Is the page extremely specific or very broad?< >Does the information contain the breadth and depth needed?Will this information be useful to the project?
  2. ˜  Is the information written in a form that is useable?
    • Who is the intended audience? (i.e. reading level, technical level)
    • Is the information in a useful format such as words, pictures, charts, sounds, or video?
  3. ˜  Is the information unique? Do the facts contribute something new or add to your knowledge of the subject?
  4. ˜  Is the information available elsewhere, such as in print or electronic format? Journal article, book etc.?
  5. ˜  Could you find the same or better information in another source? Sometimes the first result is not the best?