Researching human services issues can lead to questions about the credibility of information found over the internet. Since anyone can develop their own site and say anything they would like, determining the credibility of web information is crucial in the professional setting. Searching for a human services resources site yields many hits through major search engines like Google or Ask.com, but just because a site comes up as a result does not mean the information is reliable. This paper will evaluate the credibility of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website (2010) at www.hhs.gov based on reliable sources concerning analyzing the credibility of web information.
The US DHHS (2010) website appears professional and well-maintained at first glance. The home page is organized neatly, a site wide search function and site index is prominently available, and no advertisements are present. Breaking news stories concerning health and human services issues are highly visible on the home page and the site is sectioned off with tabs across the top page (US DHHS). A frame along the right side of the home page also helps the user navigate through the many features available on the site (US DHHS).
According to Alexander & Tate (2005) five criteria should be met to confirm the authenticity of an advocacy web site: authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, and coverage. Authority refers to whether or not the author has any expertise in the subject matter. Each page of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2010) site is marked with the organization’s name and a copyright date for the information. A link to information about the department’s main goals and mission is readily available from almost every page within the site (US DHHS, 2010). Contact information for personnel within the department is also available, further verifying the site’s legitimacy. Accuracy deals with whether or not the information contained within the site can be verified as factual (Alexander & Tate, 2005). Information in the US DHHS website is also spelled correctly and uses correct grammar, another point of accuracy (Alexander & Tate, 2005). The absence of third party advertisements is a testament to the US DHHS (2010) website’s objectivity, along with the site’s connection to the federal government and peer reviewed research. The most current copyright dates are clearly posted on each page to help verify the currency of the information (Alexander & Tate, 2005; US DHHS, 2010). Topics covered on the site are complete and encompass a wide variety of opinions and subject matter, fulfilling the last requirement of site authenticity according to Alexander & Tate (2005).
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website seems credible when analyzed using the evaluation criteria outlined by Alexander & Tate (2005). Authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, and coverage make up the five criteria for a credible site with reliable information, and the US DHHS (2010) site has all these qualities.
Alexander, J. & Tate, M. (2005). How to recognize an advocacy web page. Widener University Wolfgram Memorial Library. Retrieved January 19, 2010, from http://www.widener.edu/libraries/wolfgram/evaluate/advocacy.asp
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2010). HHS.gov. Retrieved January 19, 2010, from http://www.hhs.gov