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How to Evaluate Sources

Evaluating the Publisher of a Web Site

Experienced researchers know that the publisher of a source—the person, organization, government agency, or corporation that prints or electronically distributes a source—plays an important role in shaping its content. Like authors, publishers usually have a bias about a particular topic or issue.

To learn about the publisher of a Web site, try to locate a disclaimer or links to "site information" or "about this site." If you're evaluating a Web site that is sponsored by an organization, government agency, or corporation, what do you know about the sponsor? Is a bias clearly evident in the material provided on the site? Is this a commercial site trying to sell a product or service? Is this a site that pushes a particular issue or political agenda?

In some cases, the publisher will list its telephone number and mailing address somewhere on the page. You can then call or write for more information. Keep in mind that the information you receive by calling the publisher directly will also be influenced by the publisher's biases.

For the Taiwan Documents Project Web site, Aaron noticed on the main page that the information he found about the site described the site as being a private entity, providing mostly primary material.

He also noted a link to Praxis Trading Company, the company that created the site.

He followed the link and learned that Praxis Trading Company is a professional consulting, marketing, and management firm offering a wide range of professional services. Based on that information and the design and organization of the site, Aaron could tell that the Web site had benefited from professional development and careful planning.

Click on the Continue button to view a demonstration of evaluating the timeliness and comprehensiveness of the Web site.

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