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How do I evaluate a resource I found on the Web to make sure it is legitimate?

Last Updated: Nov 18, 2014  |  114 Views

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Anyone, anytime, anywhere, can put anything on the Web and make it available to on-line searchers. The Web contains all of the following: useful information, incorrect information, advertisements, news, entertainment, advocacy, and propaganda. Before you decide to use a Web Site, know the answers to these questions:

Who is the author?

Look at the beginning or the end of the document to find the author’s name. You may have to click on links such as “Credits For This Page” or “About This Site” to find the name of the author(s).

 What are the author’s qualifications?

Is biographical information provided with the document? You may have to click on links such as “About The Author” or on the name of the author him- or herself to find this information. Is the author qualified to write about this topic? Does he or she have degrees, training, or experience in the field? Is he or she affiliated with a university, institution, or group with a reputation for accuracy in the field?

 What is the host institution or publisher of the site?

Is the name of a group or company at the top or end of the document? Again, you may have to click on links such as “About This Site” or “Home” to find out more. Have you heard of the group before? What is its reputation? Does it have a stake in the issue it addresses?

 What information is in the URL?

The URL is the Web address for the site. The name of the sponsoring organization often follows the “www,” and after that there appears one of the following:

 .com (commercial enterprise)

Commercial sites include company sites with information about and advertisements for their products and services (www.ibm.com);online magazines and newspapers (www.washingtonpost.com); and Web sites of individuals that are hosted by commercial online services (www.aol.com/~gsmith).

 .gov (U. S. governmental body)

 Government sites include information prepared by governmental branches, departments, and agencies (www.whitehouse.gov).

 .edu (educational institution)

Educational sites include information about colleges and universities (www.umd.edu); Web pages of departments and student groups; Web pages of individual faculty and students (www.duke.edu/~goodw010).

 .org (non-profit organization)

Nonprofit sites can contain either useful unbiased information (www.apa.org) or just one side of an issue (www.nra.org).

 .net (group that is part of a network)

Network sites include individuals and groups who have a Web site through a network (www.alaska.net).

 .mil (U.S. military body)

Military sites include branches of the US military (www.navy.mil).

 Is the information reliable?

For sites with no information identifying the author or group author, compare the information in the site with that found in books or periodical articles that you know to be reliable.  Or, evaluate the site yourself using the following guidelines:

  • Qualities of Good Scholarship:

    clear, well-written;
    calm and objective tone;
    balanced and reasoned presentation;
    accurate presentation of facts: and
    all sources are documented.

     

  • Qualities of Poor Scholarship:

    bad grammar and misspellings;
    sweeping generalizations;
    uses emotional appeals;
    excessive claims of certainty; and
    no documentation of sources.

If you have any additional questions on how to evaluate a Web Site, contact a reference librarian at your campus or public library.

Answered by Shelly JablonskiBookmark and Share

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