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Home > Cataloguing Guidelines & Selection Criteria

Selection Criteria and Cataloguing Guidelines

Guidelines for Evaluating Internet Resources for ItrainOnline

If a resource falls within the scope of the ItrainOnline resource catalogue it should then be evaluated in terms of content, form and process. These criteria are not as easy to define as the scope criteria, and you will need to weigh up the strengths and weaknesses of a resource to form an overall judgement.

Content Criteria

Apply content criteria by looking at and evaluating the information contained in the resource. Remember that

anyone can publish on the Internet, so information has often not been through traditional quality 'filters' such as publishers, editors or peer-reviewers
resources may not be what they appear to be or what they say they are, as on the Internet there is no guarantee that the resource is accurate or honest

The information content is a primary consideration when evaluating Internet resources for the ItrainOnline resources catalogue. ItrainOnline aims to point to primary information and not just lists of links. Information should be valid, accurate and current, and should come from a valid and authoritative source. The information should be comprehensive, for example giving full text of documents as opposed to just abstracts, and organisational information as opposed to merely contact details, substantive content as opposed to simple overview information.

The content of resources can be evaluated by considering the following criteria:


  • Do the resources fulfil the stated purpose?
  • Does the resource have a scope statement?
  • Is there any information missing?
  • Does the information appear to be well researched?
  • Are references given?
  • Is there a bibliography?
  • Are the sources of the information stated?
  • Has the format been derived from another format e.g. print? (e.g. Is it an electronic version of a printed book/newspaper?)
  • Is there any mention of the resource being available in another format?
  • What was the motivation of the information provider when making the information available?
  • Do they have an ulterior motive?
  • Why is the information there?
  • Is it merely vanity publishing?
  • Is there a request for payment?
  • Is the information genuine i.e. what it appears to be?
  • URL - Does the URL support the claim of authorship?
  • Email addresses: are emails for a publisher, the author, referees, sources, etc. given?
  • Contact details: are addresses and phone numbers given that support claims of authorship, sponsorship etc.?
  • Does the resource point to other sources which could be contacted for confirmation?
  • Is the content of the resource verifiable - can you cross check the information?
  • Does the information claim to be unbiased (when in fact it is biased)?
  • How reputable are the 'filters'?
  • Is the site sponsored by a company, organisation or individual widely recognised as an authority or expert in the field?
  • Via what source did you come across the resource? (i.e. did someone authoritative recommend it?)
  • Is there a common link to the page from a recognised authority?
  • Is the publisher known to you and reputable?
  • Is the publisher a recognised authority?
  • Is the information provider genuine?
  • Can the authorship be validated?
  • Can claims to having been 'filtered' be validated?
  • Can information located in the publication itself be used to determine the author's credentials?
  • Is the author listed on say, the campus directory/organisational directory?
  • Are there email contacts for the publishers/referees/sponsors?


  • Is the information substantive?
  • Does the resource contain more than contact details?
  • Is the information full-text? (As opposed to just titles/bibliographic details)
  • Is it merely advertising?
  • Is there value added information?
  • If the resource consists of a collection of links is there substantial annotation or value-added information? (e.g. an annotated bibliography)


  • Is the information accurate?
  • Are you able to check the accuracy of the information?
  • Does the page cite a bibliography or provide references to confirm the accuracy of the information?
  • Are the grammar and spelling accurate?
  • Are there a large number of typographical errors?


  • To what level of detail does the resource go?
  • Is the title informative?
  • Is an abstract given?
  • Is there an opening mission statement of the purpose of the resource?
  • Are there stated criteria for inclusion of information?
  • Are key words given that indicate the information content?
  • Is everything you expect to find in the site there?
  • Is some of the information incomplete?
  • Are all aspects of the subject covered?
  • Does the index or contents page imply comprehensive coverage?


  • Is the information on the site unique?
  • Is it primary material?
  • Is there any original work available at the site?
  • Does the material have any relation to other works?
  • Is the site inward focused i.e. not just a list of links to external sites?

Composition and Organisation

  • Is the information well composed?
  • Does the text follow basic rules of grammar, spelling and literary composition?
  • Does it include jargon?
  • Is the information within a resource phrased unambiguously?
  • Is the information clearly organised?
  • Is there a good structure?
  • Is the information within a resource arranged logically and consistently?
  • Is the information broken down into logical parts?
  • Is the resource well laid out?
  • Is the resource organised by the needs of the user?
  • Is the information broken down into digestible parts?
  • Is the content clearly described?
  • Are the headings clear and descriptive?
  • Is there evidence of internal standardisation (e.g. use of a 'style sheet'?)

Form Criteria: Evaluating the Medium

  • Apply form criteria by looking at and evaluating the medium, design and presentation of the resource. Remember that:
  • On the Internet the way a resource looks depends on the equipment you are using and the way that your equipment is set up, so different people will see the resource in different forms.
  • ItrainOnline likes to point to resources that are user-friendly. They should be easy to navigate, provide adequate user-support and make appropriate use of technology. However, resources with valuable information content should not be rejected on form criteria alone.
  • The form of resources can be evaluated by considering the following criteria:

Ease of Navigation

  • Is it easy to navigate the resource?
  • Are there hidden layers that are difficult to discover?
  • Does it take more than three 'clicks' (three links) to get to something interesting?
  • Do all the links serve an easily identified purpose?
  • Are all the links clearly labelled?
  • Are there good back and forward links between pages?
  • Can a particular page be located from any other page?
  • Do you ever find yourself in a position where there are no hyper-links to anywhere else?
  • Are hyperlinks ambiguous i.e. is it obvious where a link is leading you to?
  • Are the individual web pages concise or do you have to scroll forever?
  • Do images support ease of navigation?
  • Are graphics/sounds/videos clearly labelled and identified?
  • Can pages or portions of a document be printed separately?
  • Are there single document options for those resources that may be printed?
  • For discussion in mailing lists and Usenet groups, are digests available?
  • Is it easy to browse the resource?
  • Is there an index?
  • Is the resource indexed electronically?
  • Is it easy to search the resource?
  • Does the system have an effective search facility?
  • Is keyword searching possible?
  • How effectively can information be retrieved from the resource?
  • Is a well known search engine provided?
  • Does the search engine allow the use of Boolean operators?

Provision of User Support

  • Are there instructions?
  • Do essential instructions appear before links and interactive portions?
  • Is there online help?
  • Is contextual help available?
  • Is there online documentation?
  • Is print documentation available?
  • Are customer support and training provided?
  • Is there an email or interactive 'Help Desk'?
  • Is there a telephone helpline?
  • Are training materials/courses provided?

Use of Recognised Standards

  • Is metadata provided?
  • Does it use standard multimedia formats? (e.g. MIME)
  • Is it written in standard HTML?
  • Have proprietary extensions to the HTML been added that some browsers will not recognise?

Appropriate use of Technology

  • How appropriate is the format?
  • Does it do more than can be done with print?
  • Is appropriate interactivity available?


  • Has consideration been given to the appearance of the site?
  • Does the resource follow good design principles?
  • Does it look and feel friendly?
  • Is the balance of text, images, links, headers, font sizes and white space good?
  • Are the size, colour and animation of the images appropriate?

Process Criteria: Evaluating the System

  • Apply process criteria by considering the processes and systems which exist to support the information resource. Remember that:
  • on the Internet resources are volatile and are likely to change over time the integrity of Internet resources is dependent on the original information provider, the Web site manager, and the underlying technology.
  • ItrainOnline aims to point to resources that are physically accessible and stable, and that are adequately maintained. The information, the interface and the system supporting the resource should all be reliable.
  • The processes associated with resources can be evaluated by considering the following criteria:
  • Information Integrity (work of the Information Provider)
  • Is the information current and up to date?
  • Is the date given stating when the Web item was created?
  • Do the stated dates correspond to the information in the resource?
  • How current is the material included in each update?
  • Is the information durable in nature?
  • If the site contains data or information that are time-sensitive, how current are these data and information?
  • How time-sensitive is the information, and how does this relate to frequency of update? (e.g. for resources such as timetables, schedules and conference announcements)
  • If it is a static resource (not updated) will the information be of lasting use to the audience?
  • Is the information of a type that has a limited period of use?
  • Is there adequate maintenance of the information content?
  • Are time-sensitive resources available in near real-time?
  • Is the information provider likely to be able to maintain the information (unlikely in the case of information provided by students)?
  • Is the resource improved, enlarged and updated appropriately?
  • Has the data been updated recently?
  • Is there a statement about the frequency of update?
  • Site Integrity (work of the Web-Site Manager)
  • Is the site current and up to date?
  • Are there any dead links?
  • Are all the pages dated with the last revision date?
  • Are there links to sites that have moved?
  • Is a version number for the resource displayed?
  • Is the date of last update to the resource displayed?
  • Are you being redirected to a new URL?
  • Is the site either proven to be, or expected to be durable?
  • Is there a description of the update frequencies for the resources?
  • Is the site frequently updated/maintained?
  • Is the site adequately administered and maintained?
  • Does the organisation or person hosting the resource seem to have the commitment to the ongoing
  • maintenance and stability of the resource?
  • Are the downtimes announced?
  • System Integrity (work of the Systems Administrator)
  • Is the technical performance of the resource acceptable?
  • Is the resource currently accessible?
  • Is it usually possible to reach the site or is it overloaded?
  • Is the system stable?
  • Are the connections to the site providing the information reliable and stable?
  • Are the downtimes infrequent?
  • Are the links reasonably stable?
  • Are adequate measures taken to maintain the integrity of the system?
  • Is the site mirrored?


This document is closely based on the recommendations made in the DESIRE Information Gateways Handbook and examples provided there; in particular the SOSIG scope policy and quality selection criteria.

DESIRE Information Gateways Handbook, 2.1. Quality selection: ensuring the quality of your collection:

SOSIG, Scope Policy:

SOSIG, Selection Criteria:

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