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   Resources Evaluating and Citing Online Resources

I. Evaluating Online Resources
  1. Evaluation Criteria (with Checklist)
  2. Evaluation Exercises
  3. Evaluation Guides
II. Citing Online Resources
  1. Citation Checklist
    1. Works Cited
    2. In-Text Citations
    3. Finding Citation Information
  2. Citation Examples
    1. Website
    2. Webpage
    3. Text Previously Published in Print
    4. Article in Online Journal
    5. Work from Subscription Service
    6. Posting to Discussion List
    7. E-Mail Message
  3. Citation Guides

More guides to online learning & research Resources for Instructors

This page provides instructors and students with checklists for evaluating and citing online resources. It also includes evaluation exercises and citation examples to follow, as well as annotated links to print and online guides for further research.


Shakespeare Cyborg Variorum

I. Evaluating Online Resources

Evaluation Criteria (with Checklist)

The unfiltered and unstable nature of information found on the Web makes the evaluation of online resources a necessity. Like print resources, online resources should be evaluated for the quality of information they provide (the content) and the presentation of that information (the form). The following is a checklist of questions that can assist you in evaluating both the content and form of online resources. (Printable form for checklist) For help filling out the information at the top of the checklist see finding citation information.

Citation Information -----------

Author/Site Creator:


Date of Electronic Publication:

Sponsor Organization:

Date of Access:


(Go to printable form of this checklist)

Content Criteria -----------


  • What is the authority or expertise of the author/site creator (what biographical information, credentials, or affiliations are provided)?
  • How official, legitimate, or generally trusted is the site (as indicated by its sponsoring organization or any reviews, references, or works cited you have consulted)?
  • What is unique or "cool" about the site (original work, primary information, or added value)?
  • Alternatively, in what ways does the site embrace the anonymous and collective nature of discourse on the Web to question the notions of authority, legitimacy, or originality?


  • How accurate is the information on the site (what sources or links to other sites are provided that help you validate its information)?
  • How current is the information on the site (as indicated by its creation date, updates, revisions, or other maintenance information)?
  • How durable is the information on the site (as indicated by archives or a version history)?
  • How comprehensive is the information on the site (as indicated by full text, live links, scope statement, contents page, or site map)?
  • Alternatively, in what ways does the site embrace the fluid nature of discourse on the Web to question the notions of accuracy, currency, durability, or comprehensiveness ?


  • What is the purpose of providing the information on the site (e.g., advocacy, marketing, education, news, entertainment)?
  • Who is the intended audience and how are they addressed (formally/informally, as consumer/visitor/professional/colleague)?
  • What sort of bias if any is evident (as indicated by the content, tone, author, or organization)?
  • Alternatively, in what ways does the site affirm such other values as the subjective and personal?

Form Criteria -----------


  • How does the organization of information (by subject, format, audience) contribute to your understanding?
  • How are different media (text, graphics, video, audio) integrated to contribute to your understanding?
  • How do navigational features (index, links, map) help you move around and locate information on the site?
  • Alternatively, if the design distracts or detracts from your understanding, does it do so to challenge the notions of clear information, transparent communication, or complete understanding?


  • How do user features (search engines, "help" systems, interactivity) aid you in finding and understanding information on the site?
  • How do alternative access features (for text-only and heritage browsers, for sight or hearing impaired) aid different users?
  • How well does the resource address your particular information needs?


Evaluation Exercises

Grassian, Ester and D. Zwemer. Hoax? Scholarly Research? Personal Opinion? You Decide! 10 June 1999. College Library, U of California, Los Angeles. 4 August 1999 <>. Evaluate websites based on Authority & Accuracy; Advocacy & Objectivity; and Currency & Coverage.

Henderson, John. ICYouSee: T is for Thinking. 22 July 1999. Ithaca C. Library. 4 August 1999 <>. Advice on evaluating websites and a homework assignment to analyze four sites based on Authority, Content, Design, and Value.

Holmes, Katharine. Evaluating Web Sites. 28 April 1999. Ludcke Library, Lesley C. 4 August 1999. <>. Evaluate good and bad websites based on APACAROC: Accessibility, Purpose, Appropriateness, Currency, Authority, Responsibility, Objectivity, and Clarity.

Internet Detective. Institute for Learning and Research Technology, U. Bristol. 5 August 1999 <>. Free online tutorial requiring registration helps users evaluate online resources based on Content, Form, and Process.


Evaluation Guides

Alexander, Jan and Marsha Ann Tate. Evaluating Web Resources. 24 June 1999. Widener U. 16 July 1999 <>. Teaching modules show users how to evaluate the informational content of Web resources. Criteria for evaluation include Authority, Accuracy, Objectivity, Currency, and Coverage.

Alexander, Jan and Marsha Ann Tate. Web Wisdom: How to Evaluate and Create Information Quality on the Web. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1999. "This book addresses Web evaluation issues from two perspectives: from the point of view of the Web user and from the point of view of the Web page author. It provides easy-to-use checklists for evaluating existing Web pages to determine whether the information contained in them is likely to be of value or not."

Grassian, Esther. Thinking Critically about World Wide Web Resources. Oct. 1998. College Library, U of California, Los Angeles. 16 July 1999 <>. Provides evaluation guide of questions to ask when judging the value and reliabilty of Web resources. Topics include Content & Evaluation, Source & Date, and Structure.

Harris, Robert. Evaluating Internet Research Sources. 17 November 1997. Southern California C. 16 July 1999 <>. Well-organized article on selecting and evaluating Internet research sources. Offers the CARS (Credibility, Accuracy, Reasonableness, Support) checklist for information quality.

Meyer, Ellen. Evaluating the Quality of World Wide Web Resources. 1 July 1999. Valparaiso U. 4 August 1999 <>. Discussion of ways to find and evaluate information on the Web. Evaluation criteria include Authorship, Publisher, Point of View, Content, Coverage/Scope, Currency, and Workability.

Rettig, James. "Beyond "Cool": Analog Models for Reviewing Digital Resources." ONLINE Sept. 1996. 16 July 1999 <>. Advocates adapting criteria developed for evaluation of print materials to evaluation of Web resources. See appendix for "Comparative Criteria for Reviewing Reference Books and Web Sites."

Ten C's For Evaluating Internet Sources. 11 Nov. 1998. McIntyre Library, U of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. 16 July 1999 <>. The ten C's are: Content, Credibility, Critical Thinking, Copyright, Citation, Continuity, Censorship, Connectivity, Comparability, and Context.

Walker, Janice. "Evaluating Your Sources." The English Pages Citation Guide. Addison Wesley Longman. 13 July 1999 <>. Guide to evaluating electronic resources based on Authority, Timeliness, Relevance, Author's Purpose, and Audience.

Wilkinson, Gene, Kevin Oliver, and Lisa Bennett. Internet Information Evaluation Form. 1998. U of Georgia. 16 July 1999. <>. Provides a downloadable evaluation form in PDF format developed from scholarly project that identified indicators of information and web site quality, classified them within eleven criterion categories, and rated them in terms of importance.


Citing Online Resources

Citation Checklist

The citation style recommended by the Modern Language Association of America (MLA) has been adopted by most literary scholars and journals for documenting sources in academic writing and publication. The style was developed with print resources in mind but has been adapted for online resources. Because of the changing nature of the technology, the style is continually evolving to account for the variety of electronic resources and modes of accessing electronic information. The following checklist has been adapted from the online MLA style guide. A variant style has been recommended by the Columbia Guide to Online Style (CGOS). See the print and online guides below for the authorized style guides.

Works Cited -----------

In MLA style, every source you cite must appear in a "Works Cited" list at the end of your paper. For all electronic resources included on your "Works Cited" list, supply those items from the checklist below which are relevant and available. The examples that follow show how these elements are incorporated into specific citations.

  1. Name of author, editor, compiler. Last name first for alphabetizing. Followed by abbreviated title, such as "ed.", if appropriate.
  2. Title of story, article, or webpage within book, website, database, or online journal; or subject line of an e-mail message or posting to a discussion list (followed by "E-mail to author [or recipient's name]" or "Online posting"). Title or subject line in quotation marks.
  3. For previously published print texts available online: title of book or journal (underlined); name of editor or compiler of the text (if relevant and if not cited earlier), preceded by the appropriate abbreviation, such as "Ed."; publication information for print version.
  4. Title of website, database, or online journal (underlined). For a website with no title use a description such as "Home page."
  5. Name of the editor or compiler of website, database, or online periodical (if relevant and if not cited earlier), preceded by the appropriate abbreviation, such as "Ed."
  6. Version number of the source (if not part of the title) or, for an online journal, the volume number, issue number, or other identifying number.
  7. Date of electronic publication, of the latest update, or of posting.
  8. For a work from a subscription service: the name of the service; name, location (city, state) of subscribing library (if appropriate).
  9. For a posting to a discussion list or forum: the name of the list or forum.
  10. The number range or total number of pages, paragraphs, or other sections, if they are numbered.
  11. Name of any sponsor institution or organization associated with the source.
  12. Date when you accessed the source.
  13. Electronic address, or URL, of the source; e-mail address of discussion list or forum moderator; or keyword assigned by subscription service. Electronic addresses in angle brackets.

In-Text Citations -----------

In MLA style, parenthetical citations included in the text supply information that directs the reader to the correct source in the "Works Cited" list. For print resources this usually includes the author's last name and the page number of the citation (Klindienst 25). Since electronic resources are not normally paginated, include only the author's last name (Schedler) or the title of the resource (Transcriptions) for works without a documented author.

For sources that include fixed page or section numbers, such as paragraphs, include the relevant numbers in your citation (Harpold, pars. 19-21). You need not count paragraphs if numbers are not included in the document, nor should you cite pages from a printout of the electronic information.

Finding Citation Information -----------

Print resources normally offer citation information up front: on the title page of the book or journal. Such information may be more difficult to find within electronic resources, which are far from standardized in the amount and placement of the information they provide.

The author's name may be at the top or bottom of the electronic document. Look for such tags as "Created by," "Maintained by," "E-mail to" or "Send comments to."

Finding Author

Titles usually appear at the top of the document. There should also be a title in the head of the document, which appears at the top of the browser window. If the two titles differ, choose the title which best describes the document. If no title appears, supply an appropriate description.

Finding Title

Previous publication information for print versions of an electronic document usually appears at the top or bottom of the document.

Finding Print Publication

The date of electronic publication or last update may appear at the top or bottom of the document. Look for such tags as "Last modified" or "Last revised." Remember that the publication date is usually not the same as the date you accessed the document. You need to provide both dates whenever possible.

Finding Electronic Publication

The name of the sponsoring institution or organization may sometimes be identified from the first part of the electronic address (the domain name). For example, university domains end in ".edu" (, organization domains end in ".org" (, company domains end in ".com" (, and government domains end in ".gov" ( If you can't decipher the name from the address, try truncating the address to the domain name ( to get to the institution's homepage; or look for links to the sponsoring institution at the bottom of the document or the homepage of the website.

Finding Sponsor Institution

Citation Examples

The following are MLA style citation examples for some common online resources as they would appear in a "Works Cited" list. Each entry includes a specific citation example and list of the general elements in that citation, as described in the checklist above.

Website -----------

Transcriptions: Literary History & the Culture of Information.
		U of California, Santa Barbara. 12 July 1999 <http://>.
Title of Website. Name of sponsor institution. Date of access

Webpage -----------

Schedler, Chris. "Weaving Webs: Native American Literature, Oral
		Tradition, Internet." Transcriptions: Literary History &
		the Culture of Information. 17 March 1999. U of California,
		Santa Barbara. 5 Sept. 2002 <
Name of Author. "Title of Webpage." Title of Website. Date of
		electronic publication. Name of sponsor institution.
		Date of access <URL>.

Text Previously Published in Print -----------

Klindienst, Patricia. "The Voice of the Shuttle is Ours."

		Stanford Literature Review 1 (1984): 25-53. Voice of the
		Shuttle: Web Page for Humanities Research. Comp. Alan Liu.
		30 Oct. 1996. U of California, Santa Barbara. 5 Sept. 2003
Name of Author. "Title of Article." Publication information
		for print version. Title of Website. Compiler of Website.
		Date of electronic publication. Name of sponsor institution.
		Date of access <URL>.

Article in Online Journal -----------

Harpold, Terry. "Dark Continents: A Critique of Internet
		Metageographies." Postmodern Culture 9.2 (1999): 36 pars.
		Project Muse. UCSB Lib., Santa Barbara, CA. 12 July 1999
Name of Author. "Title of Article." Title of Online Journal
		Volume number.Issue number (Date of electronic publication):
		Number of paragraphs. Name of subscription service.
		Name, location of subscribing library. Date of access <URL>.

Work from Subscription Service -----------

"Internet." Compton's Encyclopedia Online. Vers. 2.0. 1997.
		America Online. 12 July 1999. Keyword: Compton's.
"Title of Article." Title of Website. Version number. Date of
		electronic publication. Name of subscription service.
		Date of access. Keyword assigned by subscription service.

Posting to Discussion List -----------

Red Eagle, Philip H. "Natlit & Web." Online Posting. 23 March
		1999. NATIVELIT-L. 24 March 1999 <>.
Name of Author. "Subject line of posting." Online posting.
		Date of Posting. Name of discussion list. Date of access
		<e-mail address of discussion list moderator>.

E-Mail Message -----------

Warner, William. "Afterthoughts on Chris Schedler's 'Weaving Webs'."
		E-mail to author. 20 May 1999.
Name of Author. "Subject line of e-mail message." E-mail to author.
		Date of posting.

Citation Guides

Crouse, Maurice. Citing Electronic Information in History Papers. 6 May 1999. U of Memphis. 8 July 1999 <>. Modifies Li and Crane's citation styles for electronic information to confrom with Kate L. Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. Offers a useful guide to "Finding and Using the Information for Citations."

Documenting Sources from the World Wide Web. 9 July 1998. Modern Language Association of America. 3 July 1999. Available on MLA site <>. A FAQ derived from the MLA style guides (see below); includes sample entries for some common kinds of Web sources.

Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 5th ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1999. MLA style guide for high school and undergraduate college students. Includes section on citing electronic publications.

-----. MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. 2d ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1998. MLA style guide for graduate students, scholars, and professional writers. Includes updated guidelines on citing electronic works.

Guffey, Mary Ellen. "MLA Style Electronic Formats." Business Communication Quarterly March 1997: 59-76. 20 Aug. 1998. 8 July 1999 <>. Concise guide with examples on MLA style formats for citing a variety of electronic documents.

Harnack, Andrew and Eugene Kleppinger. Online! A Reference Guide to Using Internet Sources. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997. Contains chapters on locating Internet sources, accessing information, evaluating and citing electronic resources, and publishing texts on the Internet. Chapter on Using MLA Style to Cite and Document Sources is available online.

-----. Beyond the MLA Handbook: Documenting Electronic Sources on the Internet. 10 June 1996. Eastern Kentucky U. 8 July 1999 <>. Response to Janice Walker's MLA-Style Citations of Electronic Sources (first version of CGOS-Humanities style; see <>). Recommends additions and emendations to Walker's models that help eliminate ambiguities and provides a revised style sheet of formats.

Hoemann, George H. Electronic Style . . . the Final Frontier. 14 Sept. 1998. U of Tennessee, Knoxville. 8 July 1999. <>. Discussion of the problems and elements of citation for electronic style. His response to the question "Why Cite?" may be useful for students.

ISO 690-2: Bibliographic References to Electronic Documents. 10 Feb. 1999. International Organization for Standardization. 4 August 1999 <>. Specifies international standards for data elements and their prescribed order in bibliographic references to electronic documents.

Li, Xia and Nancy B. Crane. Electronic Styles: A Handbook for Citing Electronic Information. Revised Ed. Medford, N.J.: Information Today, 1996.

Longman English Pages Online Citation Guide. Addison Wesley Longman. 3 July 1999 <>. Includes links to J.D. Lester's Citing Cyberspace and Janice Walker's The English Pages Citation Guide. Both offer guidelines for finding, evaluating, and citing online resources using MLA style (Lester) or Columbia Online style (Walker). Also includes simulated search activities for students.

Taylor, Todd. Basic CGOS Style. 1 Sept. 1998. Columbia UP. 3 July 1999 <>. Overview of The Columbia Guide to Online Style for citing electronically-accessed sources in both humanities and scientific styles. Includes elements of the citation, in-text documentation, and bibliographic formats for a range of sources grouped by method of access or protocol.

Walker, Janice R. and Todd Taylor. The Columbia Guide to Online Style. New York: Columbia UP, 1998. Provides rules for citation and complete guidelines for formatting documents for online publication and for electronically preparing texts for print publication.

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