How to Read Websites

Digital Textbook: Reading Tools and Tips

Reading Websites

It is a mistake to think that books have come to stay. The human race did without them for thousands of years and may decide to do without them again.
—E. M. Forster

Rationale

Of the many new texts you as students must learn how to read, none demands more immediate attention than the Internet since our students are spending more and more time on it. They need, as we do ourselves, to see it as a text that demands critical reading skills, especially when it comes to determining the quality of the information they find on the web and the credibility of the people they may encounter online.

What to Do

Teach students to ask the following questions when reading a Web site. Point out, in the process, that the same questions can be used to evaluate other sources and media.

Student Site Evaluation Form

Thinking about the site

  1. Has it won any awards?
  2. If the site has won awards, is there a link where you can go to learn if the award is important?
  3. If the site has won an award, was it an important one to win? (You might have to check the links given to decide.)
  4. Who is responsible for the content of this site?
  5. When was the site last updated?
  6. When was the information on the site written?
  7. Does the information seem current or out-of-date?
  8. Is this site easy to navigate?

Thinking about the author of the site

  1. Who is the author of what you are reading at this site?
  2. What information can you find about the author of this site?
  3. Does that information show you that the author has the authority or knowledge to write about the topic at this site?
  1. Does the site have links to other sites that give you information about the author?

Thinking about the audience for the site

  1. Does the author seem to have a specific audience for this site in mind?
  2. Does the site have advertisements?
  3. If the site has advertisements, do they give you insight into who the audience is supposed to be?
  4. Does the site offer an “About Us” or introduction that helps you understand who the audience is supposed to be?

Thinking about information found at sites

  1. Has the information been published someplace else than just on the web?
  2. Is the information clear and easy to understand?
  3. If the information is about a controversial topic, is more than one side of the topic presented or does the site offer links to sites that would offer the opposing view?
  4. Does this site have links to other sites that give you additional information on the topic?
  5. Can you tell when the information at this site is a fact versus an opinion?
  6. Does the information have a clearly identified author?
  7. Are there charts and graphs that summarize or explain points?
  8. Is all the quoted information clearly identified and properly cited?

Overall, this site

  1. Would help me a lot with my assignment.
  2. Links me to other sites that are helpful.
  3. Looks helpful but the information is too technical or hard to understand.
  4. Is more an advertisement than information I can use.
  5. Seems to just be one person’s opinion without any backing for who that person is or why I should believe that opinion

The information on this page comes from Reading Reminders: Tools, Tips, and Techniques, by Jim Burke.

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