What is the purpose behind the web site?
Who is the intended audience? Why was this web content written and for whom?
Is it to:
Be on the lookout for bias/objectivity
Information is rarely neutral but should always be accurate. If not neutral it should make note of or acknowledge its own bias.
Bias depends on what information is included and what is purposely left out.
Bias can be strong, as in prejudice or unfairness, or it can be subtle, as in a point of view or the partially towards an idea.
Website with extremist points of view are not always easy to detect.
Learn to distinguish fact from opinion. This is very fundamental. Facts can be verified. Opinions are an interpretation of facts. A skillful writer, however, can make you think their interpretation is fact.
Learn to distinguish propaganda, misinformation and disinformation. (See definitions in the box to the left.)
For hints about the site's purpose, check these areas on the site:
What web sites does this page link out to? What is the purpose of those secondary sites?
All writing contains a certain amount of bias. Look for a balanced treatment of the topic. Look for links or text with opposing viewpoints.
This Media Bias Chart indicates which news organizations lean right or left.
For examples of biased websites see the box at the bottom of this page.
Accuracy describes information that is factually irrefutable and complete.
Does the purpose behind the web site affect accuracy?
Look for misspellings or grammatical errors
Check for the last update to the material on the site.
Verifiable information. Does the site give sources for any facts and figures? A link to the information is even better. This is especially true for blogs.
Are sources documented in footnotes?
Is there an explanation of the research methods used?
Does the page have overall integrity and reliability?
If information is reproduced from another source, is it complete, not altered, and not fake?
More about Blogs
Look at the Blog Roll. The Blog Roll are the blogs that the blogger monitors or blogs that he/she recommends. This can indicate potential bias or authority.
Does the blogger have influence? Who is commenting on the blog posts? Is the blog socially interactive; are there many comments left by others in the nature of conversational exchange.
Are the comments monitored by the blogger? Does the blogger occasionally respond to the comments? Is the site free of comment spam? (Comment spam are posts in the comment section with the only purpose is to submit links to other sites, usually malicious sites.)
From Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1989.
Disinformation – the dissemination of deliberately false information…with the intention of influencing the policies or opinions of those who receive it.
Misinformation – the action of misinforming or condition of being misinformed. Erroneous or incorrect information. Honest mistakes. It is not deliberate, it is just wrong. Example- urban legends.
Objective- not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.
Propaganda- the systemic propagation of information or ideas by an interested party, especially is a tendentious way in order to encourage or instill a particular attitude or response.
The websites below all seem to be presenting factual and trust-worthy information. None are hoaxes or parodies. "It is only when you dig down into the registries, that you discover the motives of those who have put up the websites."
Source: Posting of Joyce Janto, to Academic Law Libraries SIS listserv (December 21, 2011) (on file with author).
Be wary of hoax or spoof sites: