Web evaluation checklists

Meola (2004) critiques an over reliance on checklists as web evaluation tools.  Nonetheless two checklists merit attention.

The first is from the Kaiser Family Foundation (2003): the second is from John McManus (2013).  The lists apply not only to web resources, but to any sources.  In this way they avoid villainizing web resources simply due to their format.

Both lists also ask users to think about what is missing from a source.  At times what is omitted is as telling as what is included.

Finally, the SMELL (Source, Motivation, Evidence, Logic, Left out) checklist involves checking the information against other sources (McManus, 2013).  Is that practice so different from the contextual evaluation that Meola advocates (2004, p. 338)?

I agree with Meola (2004) that we don’t want to encourage rote or superficial evaluation.  Still, a good checklist can remind us of basic questions.  Then we have time for the deeper questions.  As Gawande puts it, “the checklist gets the dumb stuff out of the way, the routines your brain shouldn’t have to occupy itself with” (2010, p. 177).

In short checklists are one tool, but not the be all and end all, of source evaluation.  How can we develop a whole tool kit?


Gawande, A. (2010). The checklist manifesto: How to get things right. New York, NY: Metropolitan Books.

Kaiser Family Foundation. (2003).  Key facts: Media literacy. Retrieved from https://kaiserfamilyfoundation.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/key-facts-media-literacy.pdf

McManus, J. (2013, February 7). Don’t be fooled: Use the SMELL test to separate fact from fiction online. MediaShift. Retrieved from http://mediashift.org/2013/02/dont-be-fooled-use-the-smell-test-to-separate-fact-from-fiction-online038/

Meola, M. (2004). Chucking the checklist: A contextual approach to teaching undergraduates web-site evaluation.  Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 4(3), 331-344.