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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.