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Evaluating Information From the World Wide Web

Most print resources, magazines, journals and books go through a filtering process before they ever appear in a library. They are edited, reviewed and then selceted by the person who buys them and makes them available for your use. However, the information that is available via the Internet is not filtered at all. Anyone can write anything and make it immediately available.


This means that it is very important that you check the source of any information that you may be considering using in your research
.  

 

Use the following guide as a checklist:

 

Authority

·         Who is the author of the piece?

·         Is the author the original creator of the information?

·         Does the author list his or her occupation, years of experience, position, education or other credentials?

 

Affiliation

·         What institution (company, organization, government, university etc.) or internet provider supports this information?

·         Does the institution appear to exercise quality control over the information appearing under its name?

·         Does the author’s affiliation with this particular institution appear to bias the information?

 

Currency

·         When was the information created and last updated?

 

Purpose

·         What is the purpose for this information being available on the Internet.  Is it to: 

       -Inform?
       -Persuade?
       -Explain?
       -Sell you something?

Audience

·         Who is the intended audience? 

·         How does that affect the way the information is presented?

 

Internet Addresses

 

You can tell quite a lot about the origin and reliability of an Internet site by looking at it’s URL (Universal Resource Locator) or address.

 

e.g.           http://www.howickcollege.school.nz/curriculum/library/index.html

 

http//…

 

This part tells the computer which language to use to send and receive data

 

…howickcollege.school.nz

 

The second part is the name of the computer on which the data is stored.  In this case the Internet server is at Howick College.  This is also the Domain name and tells you the country where the computer is (nz) and the type of institution (school) and the name it is registered in (Howick College)  Most websites have a two letter code to indicate their country of origin. The exception is sites which have originated in the USA, they do not have a country code.

 

…/curriculum/library/index.html

 

This last part after the forward slash gives the name of the particular page or file you want within that site.

 

Other indicators of the type of organisation that carries the website are:

 

.govt or .gov     Indicates a government site (The information should be reliable)

 

.org                  Indicates that the site is maintained by a non-profit organisation and so is not

a site intended to sell you something.  However, you need to look for the point of view of the writer of such sites.  Do they want to persuade you of a point of view? eg Greenpeace is an organisation that wants to persuade you that commercial whaling is a bad thing.

 

.com or .co        Indicates a business or commercial site. Remember that these sites are on

                         the Internet to advertise or to make money.

 

.mil or .milt       Indicates a military site.  The information should be accurate and up to date

                         but may also be pushing a particular point of view.

 

.edu or .ac        All indicate an educational institution.  .ac is a university or polytech.  The

or .school          information at these sites should be reliable.

 

We all need to watch out for personal pages.  Even Universities allow students to have personal sites held on the main university site.  You can tell personal sites by the /~ in the URL.  This will come after the main part of the URL and is usually followed by the name of the person who wrote the page/s.

 

e.g.            www.uhs.edu/~tsmith

 

This is Tom Smith’s personal page on the server at University High School.

 

If you are in any doubt about the reliability of information you find on the Internet, then check with your teacher or a member of  the library staff.