Metacognition and web credibility

Andrew D. Madden (Department of Information Studies, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Nigel Ford (Department of Information Studies, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Genevieve Gorrell (Department of Information Studies, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Barry Eaglestone (Department of Information Studies, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Peter Holdridge (Department of Information Studies, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Publication date: 28 September 2012



The research reported here generated a list of criteria adopted by postgraduate students when evaluating websites. The analysis presented aims to determine whether metacognition played any part in the evaluation of websites by volunteers.


Forty‐eight students participated in the study. They carried out a series of searches designed to bring them into contact with a range of websites, from forums to electronic books. The students were encouraged to “think aloud” as they searched, and to explain their actions and strategies. Search sessions were recorded, transcribed, and subjected to ethnographic content analysis.


A range of evaluation criteria is presented. The criteria were applied at different stages of the search process and demonstrate varying degrees of metacognition. Observations on evaluation processes are also presented. Factors affecting evaluation included the purpose of the search, advice received from lecturers, and the perceived nature of the website.

Practical implications

Some volunteers encountered difficulties because of an overly simplistic approach to evaluation. Any training in information literacy skills should aim at equipping students with guidelines to help them assess the credibility of websites, while encouraging them to reflect on the nature of their search task and to apply the guidelines accordingly.


The evaluation criteria and processes described in this paper are induced from detailed observations of a large cohort of students. The qualitative nature of the study meant that these observations could be put into the context of the students' own reflections on their choice of website.



Madden, A., Ford, N., Gorrell, G., Eaglestone, B. and Holdridge, P. (2012), "Metacognition and web credibility", The Electronic Library, Vol. 30 No. 5, pp. 671-689.

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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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