DEA 253 - Dental Health Education

This guide is designed to help students in DEA 253.

Principles for Evaluating Web Sites

When you're trying to decide whether or not to use a Web site, try looking at the following criteria:

  • Author
    • Name:  Does the author provide his or her real name?  If the author's name is not listed, why is that so?
    • Authority:  Does the author give you a reason to believe his or her statements?  Sometimes an author will say what degrees they have, where they teach, who they interviewed, etc.  Other times the person will simply post their opinions and leave you to decide.
    • Bias: Is the author likely to be biased about the subject they're writing about?  For instance, the Crest Web site is not a good place to find an unbiased evaluation of Crest products, but it might be a good place to determine the benefits that Crest claims that its products possess.
  • Presentation
    • Professional:  Does the site appear professional?  Is the Web site neatly, carefully constructed? Do all of the links work?
    • Up-To-Date:  Can you tell when the site was last updated?  Was it relatively recent?
    • Language:  Does the site take itself seriously? Does it present itself with formal, grammatically-correct language?
  • Audience
    • Scholarly?  If the audience is scholarly, then the author should have formal citations of other people's writing and should list credentials for the author.  The author should describe a scientific process which he or she used to reach his or her conclusions.
    • Professional?  If the audience is professional, the article may have formal citations of other people's writing, but should list the academic and/or work credentials of the author.  This sort of article probably describes "best practices" for the workplace or new products, techniques, and materials that professionals might want to know about.
    • Popular?  If you're reading about a dental health topic in a popular source (perhaps a "consumer health" site? maybe the Web site of Time or Newsweek? Wikipedia? a blog post?), then you should be aware that you, as a dental health student, are not the target audience of this publication.  Limit your use of popular sources.

Meditation on Wikipedia

So let's apply these criteria to Wikipedia articles, such as the article on Xylitol.

Author:  None listed.  Wikipedia is edited by anyone who creates an account.

Presentation: Very attractive presentation.  Authors refer us to other sources where they got their information.

Audience: Popular


As you can see, Wikipedia is a good place to find citations to other sources, and to get an idea of how people talk about Xylitol, but it's not a good site to cite for your professors.

Meditation on Crest Teeth Whitening Advice

Now let's try these criteria on a Web page about teeth-whitening products on the Crest site.

Author:  Unnamed; presumably works for Crest.

Is s/he a  licensed hygenist or assistant or dentist?

Presentation:  Very attractive, but sources are not referred to by name.
 
Where did s/he get his/her information?
 
Audience: Popular
 

So in the end, is this any better than Wikipedia?  Slightly worse, in that it is wearing a commercial bias on its sleeve?  Slightly better, in that it was produced by a company dedicated to dental health?