Purpose: What is the purpose of the publication? Is it to inform or persuade? Is it biased? Does it provide more than one point of view? Does a bias diminish the usability or credibility?
Author: Are the author’s credentials, such as educational background, occupation, affiliation or position listed? Many resources do not have one author as they are published by a group of authors, an organization or even a government body. If so, are they or the entity they represent specialists in the subject area?
Audience: Who is the targeted audience? Is it the general public, academic community, scientific community or is it specialists in a particular field?
Language: Is the language scholarly or general? Is it geared toward the layperson or someone with knowledge in the field? Does it include terminology or acronyms specific to an industry?
Documentation: Does the work include bibliographies or references, charts, graphs or other evidence that supports the research presented?
Currency: Is it important that your sources include the latest findings or does your topic permit or require historical research?
Look for the purpose of the website. Is it to explain, inform, entertain, advertise, advocate, deceive or even joke? Is there an about section or mission statement? Can you determine the intended audience?
Look for the author or sponsoring entity (person, group or organization). Is the author or sponsoring entity clearly identified? Are credentials listed which validate the author’s expertise?
Look for the top-level domain (the last part of the URL) for a hint about who is publishing the website. The domain creates distinctions between types of websites. They do not, however, assure reliability and credibility.
Examples of Internet top-level domains: