Skip to main content

WHSL Evaluating Web Sites for Health Information: Authority

A brief guide showing how to evaluate web sites used to provide health information

Criteria

The following criteria can be used to evaluate web sites:

  • Authority
  • Accuracy
  • Objectivity
  • Currency
  • Coverage

Who is the Authority of these Sites?

Work through these examples to determine who is the authority (author) of the content:

Authority

Who is the author of the web site content?

  • Note: the author of the site's content may not be the webmaster. The webmaster may only be responsible for the technical and design content.

What are the author's qualifications?

  • Is there any contact information?
  • Is there biographical information about the author?
  • What are the credentials of the author or the publisher of the site?
  • Does the author use evidence (eg. articles in medical journals) on which the content is based?
  • Is the site sponsored in any way?
  • Is the author/sponsor credible?
  • Is there bias on the part of the author/sponsoring agency?

In what other ways can the origin of the site be determined? The domain name of the URL will often provide clues to the credibility of the site's content. The domain name will tell you who "published" the page on the web. For example:

  • .edu, .ac or .gov in the domain name indicates an educational or government authority 
    • pubmed.gov
    • harvard.edu (note: .edu is used mostly in the USA); wits.ac.za; ox.ac.uk
  • .org or .net in the domain name indicates a non-governmental organisation; a not-for-profit organisation or a network of organisations. 
    • hst.org.za; joburg.org.za
  • .co or .com usually indicates a for-profit site
    • reuters.com; angloamerican.co.za

Analysing URLs