Website Evaluation:
  • Who wrote the pages and are they an expert?
  • How can I find out more about the author? (You should be able to click on their name to get to a resume.)

  • What does the author say is the purpose of the site?
  • What else might the author have in mind for the site?
  • What makes the site easy to use?
  • What information is included and does this information differ from other sites?

  • When was the site created?
  • When was the site last updated?

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Where can I look to find out more about the sponsor of the site? (You should be able to find an “About Us” link at the top or bottom of the page.)

  • Why is this information useful for my purpose?
  • Why should I use this information?
  • Why is this page better than another?

Based on The 5W’s of Web Site Evaluation by Kathy Schrock

Using Wikipedia:
Wikipedia can be a great tool for learning and researching information. However, as with all reference works, not everything in Wikipedia is accurate, comprehensive, or unbiased. Many of the general rules of thumb for conducting research apply to Wikipedia, including:
  • Always be wary of any one single source (in any medium — web, print, television or radio), or of multiple works that derive from a single source.
  • Where articles have references to external sources (whether online or not) read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says.
  • In most academic institutions, major references to Wikipedia, along with most encyclopedias, are unacceptable for a research paper. Other encyclopedias, such as Encyclopædia Britannica, have notable authors working for them and may be cited as a secondary source in most cases.

Citing Wikipedia:
First you should question the appropriateness of citing any encyclopedia as a source or reference. This is not simply a Wikipedia-specific issue, as most secondary schools and institutions of higher learning do not consider encyclopedias, in general, a proper citable source. Citation of Wikipedia in research papers has been known to result in a failing grade.
This does not mean Wikipedia is not useful: Wikipedia articles contain many links to newspaper articles, books (often with ISBN numbers), radio programming, television shows, Web-based sources, and the like. It will usually be more acceptable to cite those original sources rather than Wikipedia since it is, by nature, a secondary source. At the same time, simple academic ethics require that you should actually read the work that you cite: if you do not actually have your hands on a book, you should not misleadingly cite it as your source.