1.5.2 Using the PROMPT checklist

The PROMPT checklist features six evaluation criteria:

Presentation

“Presentation” refers to the appearance of the website being evaluated. You should ask:

  • Is the information is clearly communicated?
  • Is the website easy to navigate?
  • Is the language clear and easy to understand?

Relevance

“Relevance” refers to whether the website being evaluated is suitable for your precise needs. You should ask:

  • What is the information mainly about? (The introduction can give a useful clue here.)
  • Does the information match your needs?

Objectivity

“Objectivity” refers to whether the website being evaluated is likely to give a neutral view of the topic it covers. You should ask:

  • Is the author’s position or interest made clear?
  • Is the author likely to be biased?
  • Is the language emotive or designed to persuade?
  • Are there hidden, vested interests?

Method

“Method” refers to the information provided to support any claims that are made on a website. (This might be information about the “experts” providing the information or the source of the information. You should consider “Method” if the website you are evaluating makes any claims.) You should ask:

  • Is it clear how the data was collected?
  • If “experts” are mentioned, are they named?
  • Are links provided to the research data?
  • Do you trust the information provided and the claims made?

Provenance

The term “provenance” refers to the apparent authenticity of the website and the likely reliability of the source of the information provided. You should ask:

  • Is it clear where the information has come from? Here, you might consider the website address or URL (uniform resource locator). Academic websites in the USA usually end with “.edu” and in the UK they usually end “.ac.uk.” (This ending is called the “top-level domain.”) Government websites end with “.gov” in the USA and “.gov.uk” in the UK. Click here [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] for a list of common top-level domains.
  • Is the author or organization responsible for the website clearly identified?
  • Is the author or organization likely to be trustworthy?

Timeliness

“Timeliness” refers to whether the information on a website is likely to be sufficiently up-to-date for your needs. Note that sometimes timeliness not that important. If you’re looking for information about the current availability of educational funding, say, then timeliness will be very important, because the information is likely to change frequently; however, if you’re looking for information about the American Civil War, timeliness is less important because that information is less likely to change over time. You should ask:

  • Is it clear when the information was produced?
  • Does the date of the information meet your requirements?
  • Could the information be out-of-date?

Activity 1.3: A Sample Web Evaluation

Allow about 30 minutes for this activity

This is a required activity for Challenge 1: The Web Evaluation Challenge.

For this activity, all you need to do is watch the video showing me conducting a web evaluation.

Download this video clip.Video player: web_eval2.mp4
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Transcript

Before you do your first evaluation of a web resource, I’m going to work part-way through an evaluation myself, using the PROMPT framework as the basis for my evaluation. I’m going to evaluate a fictional web page—Awesome Time Management Tips for Awesome People. I’m going to record the results of my evaluation in the online evaluation form which I’ve opened in a separate tab in my browser. I’ll switch to it now and you’ll see that I’ve already entered the website name and URL.

I’ll switch back to the website and start my evaluation.

First, we’ll start with presentation.

OK, let’s look at whether the information is clearly communicated. I’d have to say yes, it’s very clearly communicated, using numbered lists and short sentences. The points made are all very direct, though I did feel a bit puzzled by the fact that the “Top Ten Tips” amounted to only four items!  Even so, the language is very clear and the page is easy to navigate.  So, I’ll switch to the evaluation form and write “Clear Communication, direct language, easy to read and navigate.” I’ll add “Clear layout.”

Relevance

Here, we look at whether the website meets our needs. This site looks promising at first glance as it’s clearly about time management. However, reading through the introduction reveals that it is targeted at business people rather than students, so the web page may not be so relevant after all.  So, I’ll write “relevant at first glance, but actually seemed designed for business people”.

Objectivity

Here, we’re looking to see whether the author seems to have a personal interest and whether the language is emotional at all. The word “awesome” in the title gives a clue about the tone of this web page, right from the start. The bold claims and exaggerated language continue on the page itself and it’s not long before we discover the personal interest of the author… selling the so-called bestselling book Awesome Time Management Tips for Awesome People. This casts some doubt on the likely reliability of the information on the website, which seems to be acting as a promotional vehicle for this book. So, I’ll write “exaggerated language designed to persuade” and “website seems intended to sell a book so author is likely to have a personal interest.”

I’ll end my evaluation here but if you were evaluating this website you’d carry on and cover method, provenance and timeliness. But I’ll end here.

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Comment

What did you think of my evaluation? Did I miss anything? Probably! If you were evaluating this website you may have different needs than my own and might answer the questions from a different viewpoint.

Next, you will get the chance to do your own evaluation of a website using the PROMPT form.

Activity 1.4: Evaluating a Website

Allow about 20 minutes for this activity.

This is a required activity for Challenge 1: The Web Evaluation Challenge.

This activity involves evaluating a website about note-taking skills.

Comment

How did you get on? As the activity guidance states, there are no right answers for this activity and every Learning to Learn student will have evaluated the website slightly differently. Also, it’s worth bearing in mind that evaluations will differ depending on your focus. For example, the University of Massachusetts note-taking site seems intended for people taking notes in face-to-face lectures and may not be quite as relevant for people studying distance learning courses online.

Sometimes an evaluation can depend on hard-to-find information. For example, the note-taking web page you have just evaluated does not give clear information about who has created the page so it is difficult to assess its objectivity and likely reliability at first glance. The page has actually been created by the University of Massachusetts but finding this out involves leaving the note-taking page and visiting other pages in the Learning Resource Center website. So, you should be prepared to hunt around when evaluating websites in the future.

Hopefully you now feel better equipped to use the Web for your studies. In Unit 1.7 you will get the chance to complete a challenge demonstrating your Web evaluation skills. For now though, you’ll learn about another very important study skill—reflection—which is the focus of Unit 1.6.

1.5.1 Evaluating Information on the Web

1.6 Learning Through Reflection