9. Evaluating Web Sites: Clues to an author and/or publisher's background
You'll always want to know who's providing the information on a web site. Do
they have the education, training, or other experience that make you think they
are authorities on the subject covered? Or do they just have opinions?
The more you know about the author and/or publisher, the more confidence you
can have in your decision for or against using content from that web site.
Authors and publishers can be individuals or organizations (including
companies). Web masters usually don't count because they put things on the site
but do not actually decide what goes on all but the smallest web sites. They
just carry out others' decisions.
Sites that do not identify an author or publisher are generally considered
less credible for many purposes, including term papers and other high-stakes
Click for clues about an author's and/or publisher's background:
- If they're available, take a look at pages called such things as About
this Site, About Us, or Our Team first. But you may need to browse around a
site further to determine its author. Look for a link labeled with anything
that seems like it would lead you to the author. For instance, what would
you click on to find the name of the person who created the
- You may find the publisher's name next to the copyright symbol (© at
the bottom of at least some pages on a site.
- Sometimes it helps to look for a tilde symbol (~) preceding a
directory name in the site address. This indicates that the page is in a
"personal" directory on the server and is not an official publication of
that organization. For example, you could tell that Jones' web page was not
an official publication of XYZ University if his site's address was: http://www.XYZuniversity.edu/~jones/page.html.
The tilde indicates it's just a personal web page--in the Residences, not
Schools, neighborhood of the web. Unless you find information about the
author to the contrary, the site should not be considered to have as much
authority as a site officially part of the university's site.
- Learning what they have published before can also help you decide
whether that organization or individual should be considered credible on the
topic. Listed below are resources to look for what the organization or individual may
have published and what has been published about them.
|Make the inference: Consider the clues. Then decide the extent to
which the site's author and/or publisher is acceptable for your purpose. It
might help to grade the extent to which this factor contributes to the
site being a suitable on a scale like this one:
You'll want to make a note of the web site's grade for author and/or
publisher so you can combine it later with the grades you give the other
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