Most people have become comfortable doing internet searches with search engines such as Google and Yahoo. The websites retrieved, however, vary in their purposes and reliability. When thinking about whether a source has reliable information, consider the following.
Things to think about when evaluating information:
1) Currency - Is the information up to date? Have there been any factual or philosophical changes since this information was recorded?
2) Relevance - Does this information actually address your research need?
3) Authority - Is the source authoritative? Who is responsible for the site? Do you have reason to believe that the author is knowledgeable about the topic? What are the author's credentials? You can usually find information about the author of a site by clicking on the “About” or “About Us” page. If you do not see the link to this page, check the small (sometimes very small!) print at the bottom of the page. Once you know who is responsible for a site, dig a little deeper by conducting an internet search for that person/entity. Do other sources reinforce that this is an authoritative source, or do all results just go to other self-generated pages, such as Facebook and press releases?
4) Accuracy - Can you verify the information with other sources? Does the information make sense and agree with what you know to be true from other authoritative sources? Are statements supported with verifiable research?
5) Purpose/Point of View – The author may be knowledgeable, but is there a bias, a personal interest or belief that impacts the way a person thinks about and presents information? What is the author's purpose? Is it to inform, entertain, persuade, etc? If the site has a mission or goal that supports one side of an issue or represents one group of people, be aware of how that may impact the content.
Find reliable information:
Hartness Library. Credible Websites? YouTube. YouTube, 22 June 2012. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.
Use Research Ready’s Website Evaluator when you are considering the reliability of a web site. Enter the url of the site you are considering and GO. A side window will walk you through the evaluation process and give you the option of printing or emailing your choices. Give it a try!
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