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Health Literacy: Good or Garbage?

This health literacy guide is designed to help students find and assess sources of quality health information

Determining What's Reputable

While this page focuses on evaluating websites, the criteria and guidance listed here can also be used for evaluating

  • print sources such as books
  • other forms of communication such as blogs, social networking sites, broadcast media, etc.

Want More?

Other sources with more detail about critically evaluating health information and general websites include

Website Evaluation Criteria

Criteria Guidance Helpful Hints
  • Government, educational or organizational sites are often preferable to commercial ones.
  • Is contact information easily located and detailed?
  • Check header or footer of home page for sponsor names and contact information.
  • Check URL for domain: .gov, .edu, .org, .com.
What is the PURPOSE?

Goal(s) of the site:

  • Objective information?
  • Opinion?
  • Advocacy of specific viewponts or activities?
  • Selling a product or service?
  • Who is the intended audience?

  • Check for details about the sponsor's mission under About Us, Philosophy, or similar links.
What is the AUTHORITY?
  • Expertise in topic should be evidenced by author's credentials and experience.
  • Authors should be easily and clearly identified.
  • Is the sponsoring organization knowledgeable or respected in the field?
  • Check About link for author's credentials
  • Google or search other sources for more information about the author or sponsoring organization.
What is the CONTENT and how is it DOCUMENTED?
  • Is coverage comprehensive or superficial?
  • Is it well organized?
  • Is there any bias apparent? Are other viewpoints presented or just one?
  • What's the evidence for the statements made? Are peer-reviewed research studies cited?
  • Are sources reasonably current, fully and accurately cited?
  • Do links on the site go to other credible or quality sources that are relevant and appropriate for the topic? Do these links work?
  • Is grammar and spelling generally error-free?
  • Can information be confirmed elsewhere?
  • Is advertising, if any, clearly distinguished from informational content?
  • Carefully review various pages and links.
  • For more information about peer reviewed research, see the Popular vs. Academic Sources section of this guide.
  • Search for other independent online or print sources to confirm accuracy of information.
  • When was it published, created, last reviewed or updated?
  • For health information, current is usually better as outdated infomation can be dangerous.
  • Look for dates on home and other pages (usually at bottom).

Prefer to Watch a Video?

Try this video (under 4 minutes long) that was created by Dr. Nita Bryant of Virginia Commonwealth University and used by permission of the VCU Libraries.