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Journal Articles

Magazine Articles

Web Sites

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How to Evaluate Sources

Evaluating the Author of a Web Site

Whenever you use a source in your research writing project, it's important that you know its author. This can often be difficult with Web sites, which sometimes do not list an author. Because of this, your first step in evaluating the author of a Web site is to determine if the site lists one. (Oftentimes, the Web site lists only its publisher/owner.)

If no author is given, try to identify the sponsoring organization or publisher. Sometimes you'll find contact information or a disclaimer on the home page or an "about this site" page. If you can't find out anything about the author, carefully consider if you should use the information.

For the Taiwan Documents Web site, no author was listed, so Aaron decided to evaluate the publisher of the Web site. You may want to proceed to Evaluating the Publisher of a Web Site if you are unable to find an author for a Web site.

If you are able to determine the author of the Web site, see if any credentials or affiliations are given in the byline or in a biographical note at the beginning or end of the article. If you are in doubt about the author's credentials or affiliations, you might do a quick search for the author on a Web search engine to determine whether or not he or she has published other articles or is a recognized authority in the field.

If you find it difficult to learn about an author's credentials or affiliations or if no credentials or affiliations are provided, consider sending an email message to the author (if an email address is provided) asking about his or her credentials or affiliations. Or, you might again consider searching for the author on the Web. An increasing number of authors have created home pages on which they list information about themselves, such as their educational background, professional experience, and interests.

You may also consider the potential bias of the author. As you evaluate a Web site, consider if its author's bias affects the presentation of information and opinions in a source. Ask if this bias has resulted in a source that treats one side of an issue more favorably than another. To explore for bias, ask where the author is coming from. Where are his or her allegiances? Is the bias hidden or stated? Do you need to look for a balancing viewpoint or approach?

Click on the Continue button to view a demonstration of evaluating the publisher of the Web site.

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