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Digital Literacy Online (62-130, 26-105)

In order to find websites that are acceptable for academic research, examine both credibility and authority.

Evaluating webpages: Read A and B

  • What is authority?
    • When evaluating a web page, it is important to find out whether the person or entity responsible for creating or publishing page content is qualified to produce content about a research topic in a professional and competent manner.
Educational level (college degrees or professional certification relevant to topic)
Has professional job experience related to the subject
Has published additional info on the subject (book, article)
Web site lists staff accomplishments
Organizer/publisher hires qualified professionals (reputation, policy/editorial statement on website)


  • The content creator may be specific person or group of people (e.g., journalists, scholars, scientists, practicing professionals). Or the content creator could be a corporate entity that is responsible for screening content, producing content, and publishing content (e.g., media/news corporation, company, nonprofit organization, government agency).
  • To check a website's authority, select a webpage from the results list


[ Author name links to other articles written for this website ]

  • If credentials are not available, Google (phrase search) the author's name

[ Google the author's name using phrase search to find credentials ]

  • Verify the author has a degree, expertise, and/or work experience in the topic's field

  • If you can't locate author information, is the site edited or reviewed by staff with degrees in the discipline?  Check the editors' degree, expertise, and/or work experience in the About Us, Board, or Staff areas to see if they match the topic area. 
  • Watch video "Evaluating Web Page Credibility"
  • What is credibility?
    • Credibility refers to the accuracy and trustworthiness of the content of a source.
    • For a source to be considered reliable for an academic essay, presentation, or writing assignment, it must be evidence based and well documented.
  • To check a website's credibility, select a quality web page from your search results.
  • The most reliable documentation of evidence based research is a complete, verifiable list of all sources used and consulted which can be referred to as Works Cited, References, Notes, or a Bibliography.
  • Consulting and identifying research studies and certified experts trained to conduct and evaluate research is also acceptable proof of evidence based claims made in credible sources. 

​Levels of credibility:

  • Most credible: Web pages contain a complete documentation list at the end of the web page. Web pages containing a complete documentation list often use other hallmarks of scholarly publishing like presenting data and statistics arranged in tables, charts, and graphs. NOTE: Links to related or similar web pages are not considered a a complete documentation list.
  • Credible: Web pages refer to research studies and consult experts who have done the research and who are trained to analyze and synthesize research results in a particular area of study. Credible web pages do not contain a complete documentation list.
    [ sources are hyperlinked within website content ]
  • Least credible: Web pages are not meant to inform in a rational, objective manner. They generally represent sloppy thinking and weak reasoning. They may entertain, provoke, or distract but least credible web pages do not present evidence based and trustworthy content. Least credible web pages do not consult experts in the field of study related to the web page content, do not take into account valid research relevant to the web page content, and do not contain a list of verifiable sources. They should not be included in academic assignments.
    [ Least credible - does not provide link to poll or citation for poll ]

Calculate your Webpage ESA

From the list of your current event's search results: 

1) Select a webpage 

2) Calculate the Earned Scholarly Average (ESA) of the selected webpage using this chart

(Note: author has 2 parts - answer both parts)

No source is perfect, but even imperfect resources can be useful. Here's a rule-of-thumb ESA scale you can use:

  • 6 points or more: Good source, as long as it's relevant to your topic
  • 2-5 points: Worth a look and further consideration
  • 1 point or lower: Possible background material, but keep looking

[ Creative Commons - Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported ] ESA was developed by librarians at Ferris State University's FLITE library as part of the Project Information Literacy Online Tutorial

3) Post your completed chart, URL of website, and two sentences, one sentence about the credibility (content) and one sentence about the authority (author/sponsor).

Sample credibility and authority sentences:

The author, Peter Scott, is credible because he is a professor of higher education at the University College London Institute of Education.  This site does not have strong credibility because legislation is mentioned, but not cited. 

Directions for Capturing ESA Chart:

  1. Select the magnifying glass ("search windows") in the bottom left corner 
  2. Type Snipping Tool
  3. Click Snipping Tool
  4. Click New
  5. Click and drag a red box around the chart
  6. Click File
  7. Click Save As...
  8. Save graphic to Desktop as File name: webpage ESA.PNG
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