Authority/Source/Sponsorship:Who wrote the information/or what is the source of information? Look for the sponsor’s identity from the website address. For example:
- .gov identifies a government agency
- .edu identifies an educational institution
- .org stands for organizational publication, such as scientific or research societies, advocacy groups etc.)
- .com identifies commercial websites (e.g. business, pharmaceutical companies, sometimes hospitals)
- .net stands for a network vendor. It is difficult to know the quality of these sites.
Questions to ask:
If the information is not written by a health care professional, was it reviewed by an expert in health care field?
Was the information based on medical research? The site should identify the evidence on which the information is based.
If there is statistical information, does it come from a reliable source?
Medical facts and figures should be supported by names of sources, such as published journal articles
Currency: As medical research continues to provide new evidence, health information changes. Therefore make sure the information is frequently updated. The website should reflect the most up-to-date health information. The date of the revision/update of information should be clearly posted on the website. The bottom of the web page usually provides the revised date.
Purpose/ Bias: Evaluate the purpose of the website. Is it to provide health information? Or is it to market a product or raise funds? Does it claim for miraculous and quick remedies for diseases? A consumer health web site should provide evidence of medical research and be written in simple language.
Audience: The information on the web page should clearly state whether the information is intended for the consumer or the health care professional. Many health information websites have links to two different areas, one for consumers and one for professionals.
Readability: The website should be designed with a clear background color and fonts that can be read by all age groups.
Organization of the contents: Information on the website should be organized in a logical order for the user to understand the content or subject matter clearly. A website with illustrations, facts and figures and links to the organizations that have carried out the research on a subject matter enables the users to gain more knowledge of the topics.
Contact Information: Always look for the contact information of the owners of the website in order to provide feedback or obtain answers to questions. Usually this information is given at the bottom of the website.