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Evaluating Information - Sources On The WWW

CRITERIA FOR EVALUATING INFORMATION SOURCES:

Authority

  • Is it clear who is responsible for the page? The final element in the URL may provide a clue: com indicates a commercial origin, edu an educational institution, gov a government body, org a non-profit organization.
     
  • Is it clear who wrote the material? Are the author's qualifications stated?
     
  • If an organization is responsible, is there a way to verify its legitimacy? Is there a statement of purposes? Is there a telephone number and an address (not just an e-mail address)?

Accuracy

  • If factual information or statistics are given, are the sources clearly stated?
     
  • Is the information free of grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors? (These kinds of errors not only indicate a lack of quality control, but can produce inaccuracies in information).

Objectivity

  • Is advertising clearly differentiated from information?
     
  • Are biases clearly stated?
     
  • Are opinion/editorial pieces clearly labelled?

Currency

  • Are there dates to indicate when the page was written? When it was last revised?
     
  • If information from another source is included, is it clear when it was written?
     
  • Are there other indications of frequency of updates?

TYPES OF WEB SITES WHICH NEED TO BE EVALUATED WITH SPECIAL CARE:

Business/Marketing: Purpose is to provide information and/or advertising for a company or product, and frequently to stimulate consumer interest or to sell directly. Print sources usually make a clear distinction between advertising and information; on the web, this distinction can be blurred.

"Infomercial": A blend of advertising, information and entertainment.

Personal pages: For a comparatively small investment of time and money anyone can mount a personal home page; purposes for doing so vary widely.


REMEMBER:

The Web is only one source of information:

  • It can be very useful for certain topics
     
  • It can be almost useless for other topics
     
  • To research a topic thoroughly use a variety of sources, both web and traditional.

 

Adapted from Alexander and Tate, Evaluating the World Wide Web
(c) Widener University, 1996. http://www.science.widener.edu/~withers/evalout.htm

 


      

Lloyd Sealy Library
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Last updated: 01/1997
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