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Evaluating the quality of a website can be taught!

Telling students that they must validate the reliability of their sources when doing research is not enough. You still have to teach them how to do it! To help you support them, here are nine criteria that help determine a credible source on the Web.

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Telling students that they must validate the reliability of their sources when doing research is not enough. You still have to teach them how to do it! To help you support them, here are nine criteria that help determine a credible source on the Web.

These nine criteria are summarized from this Edutopia article (in English). Check it out for more information and relevant examples. 

From about age 10, young people should gradually be able to assess the content and origin of the information they consult on the Internet. This skill is essential today, for both children and adults, so that they can make informed choices about consumption, for example, and develop a better understanding of the world. 

The reliability of a website essentially depends on three elements: 

  • distinguish appearance and content 
  • discover the source of the information 
  • determine the intentions of the authors

Taken alone, these elements do not lend any credibility to a site, but together they can dismiss many dubious sources.

Distinguish between appearance and content

Relying on the appearance of a site does not make it possible to judge the quality of the information it contains. Thus, distinguishing appearance and content is therefore an essential learning. Here are four questions to ask yourself.

  • Is the site easy to navigate? A Web page with good navigation ergonomics will allow visitors to find information quickly with as few clicks as possible. He won't try to lose the reader, distract him or take him somewhere else.
  • Are there many advertisements or pop-up windows? A serious site will avoid bombarding the visitor with useless information or misleading advertisements.
  • Does the site have any grammatical or syntax errors? A website's reputation will be greatly damaged by the presence of language errors. A serious organization will ensure the linguistic revision of its content.
  • Do the images serve the purpose? Graphical representations of an informational site should not be intended to entertain or distract the reader. On the contrary, the images must facilitate the understanding of the text.

Discover the source of the information

Before considering the information of a site, it is essential to know the source. The "About" and "FAQ" sections will allow you to learn more about the authors. The answers to these three questions will guide you.

  • Is the domain name evocative? The URL address will provide information on the credibility of the authors. For example, the .gouv, .gov or .edu extensions are protected and provide some legitimacy. On the contrary, extensions such as .com, .org or .net are assigned to anyone.
  • What is the qualification of the authors? A reliable site will give the name of the organization to which it relates or that of its authors. The qualification or title of the writers should also appear. Some additional research may validate their reputation.
  • Does the site offer links to other reliable sites? A relevant webpage will recommend links to trusted organizations. One can also check if similar plausible sources give the former as a reference.

Determine the intention of the authors

Depending on the age of the student, determining the intention of the authors is probably the most difficult to identify. Indeed, the intention of a person or an organization can sometimes be deliberately hidden or misleading. Even adults get caught up in it. These two questions will make it clear.

  • Does the site have biases? A credible site will publish objective facts and not interpretations or opinions. It will not present bias and will not try to convince or sell products.
  • Can we validate certain quotes, images, information? A reliable site will offer original information or correctly cite its sources. It is easy to verify the origin of a text extract by simply copying and pasting into a search engine. For images, specialized tools, such as Google Images, make it possible to find the author of a photo.

It is relatively simple to incorporate these elements into the teacher's planning. Each activity or learning situation is an opportunity for students to develop their critical thinking skills. It may also be interesting to have the student discriminate, using the above-mentioned criteria, certain sites chosen by the teacher. These are all opportunities for students to sharpen their judgment when surfing the Internet, a skill that they can easily transfer to their daily lives.


Dimension (s) of digital competence related to this article
4- Develop and mobilize your information culture
11- Develop critical thinking towards digital technology

To see the Framework.

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About the Author

Phylippe Laurendeau
Phylippe laurendeau
For 25 years, the biologist, teacher, educational advisor and now technopedagogue has accumulated a rich and diversified experience in education. In her texts, Phylippe uses her background and her passion for digital resources, efficient practices and distance learning.

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