Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Web Analysis - How to unpack a website

Why do I need to unpack a website?

Standard Academic Assessment Rules Apply!

Websites are no different from other academic sources when it comes to scrutiny.

Always evaluate a source you're interested in using for these criteria:

  • Who is the audience?
  • Who wrote it?
  • Does it include specific citations?
  • What is the purpose of this source?
  • Does it add something to my understanding of the topic? 

Starting Points

The first step in unpacking a website is determining what kind of website you're looking at. 

Common types of sites include:

  • news 
  • company or corporate 
  • advocacy/policy
  • industry/trade/professional
  • education
  • government
  • non-government organization (NGO)/charity
  • personal interest/hobby/community
  • shopping
  • entertainment/arts

Some of these categories are overlapping. For example, an entertainment site might be owned by a company or corporation. A special interest group may have started a charity or a non-government organization.

Ultimately, what is the purpose of the site's owner and the site itself? 

Not Everything on the Web is a Website

The internet is a place jam-packed with digital stuff. Not everything on the web is a "website". 

We usually use "website" to mean a group of pages linked by design and navigation, owned and created by one entity.

Within websites, various documents might be included.

  • news stories
  • advertisements
  • knowledge base
  • blog
  • media
  • about (self-description), information about the entity
  • research or published works
  • store/sales

When you do a search, you might be accessing a document within a larger site. It's important to recognize:

  • What is the document I'm looking at?
  • Who posted it online? Is it within a larger website?
  • How does it fit within the larger website?

You will need to know this information to be able to properly cite any web source.