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Evaluating website credibility


Students will learn the key questions they should ask in order to determine the credibility of online news websites.


  • Students will understand the key questions for determining a news website’s credibility.
  • Students will apply the key questions of online credibility to popular news websites.
  • Students will analyze the credibility of popular news websites based on their application of the key questions.
  • Students will evaluate news websites based on key credibility questions and make recommendations for how news websites could improve their credibility ranking.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.3 Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).


50 minutes


Computer lab or laptop cart:  1:1 or 1:2 ratio

Internet access

Class set: Website Credibility Ranking Sheet

Lesson step-by-step

1. Introduce the activity — 10 minutes

This lesson starts students off with an activity, either in a computer lab or with student laptops. For the best learning experience, students should work individually or in pairs. Explain that students will be evaluating news websites based on how credible they seem to the average viewer of the website. When we know what the standards are for excellent, user-friendly, and credible news websites, we will more easily recognize when a website fails to meet those standards and hence should be questioned or examined more closely.

Explain that they will open the website URL you provide them (suggested links found below). They should spend about 10 minutes reading around the site, becoming familiar with the content, exploring different tabs and looking through vital information on the site (for example, the “about us” page).  Then, they will evaluate the website using the ranking sheet provided. Finally, at the end of the exercise, they will write a short description of their main findings.

2. Evaluating websites activity — 20-30 minutes

Pass out the worksheets, and assign each student or pair a URL. To ensure a variety of responses and feedback from your students for the follow-up discussion, we recommend you provide a mix of the following websites so that your whole class covers:

  • 2-3 local news websites, including a mix of the online companion site to the local newspaper and local broadcast news websites
  • 2-3 state or regional news websites
  • 3 nationally-focused news websites
  • 2 non-local state news websites

Don’t be afraid to assign the same website to two different students who aren’t working together. This should make for interesting follow-up discussions depending on whether the students found the websites equally credible in the same ways.

Walk the room as they work, answering questions and keeping them on task. If students are on task, make a chart on the whiteboard that lists all the websites in a row across the top, and leave space in a column under each website for students to write their credibility ranking.

3. Follow-up discussion — 10-15 minutes

Once students are finished with the evaluations, ask a representative from each group to go list their credibility ranking under the appropriate website on the whiteboard. Once each website has a ranking, go around the groups again and ask for some key words or explanations that demonstrate the most troublesome issue the students found with their sites (for example, some might say “typos on the website,” or “the site was really hard to read or follow”).

Finally, ask students to now brainstorm on the back of the worksheet what steps they could take to compensate for the credibility qualities the websites were lacking. For example, would they go to another site entirely? Would they leave a comment on the website to correct a fact? What can they do, as the consumer, to get the best experience and most information out of these sites even if they aren’t perfectly “credible” according to the rankings?