If it’s on the internet, it has to be true, right?
It’s easy to assume that the information that you find on the internet is accurate, especially if it’s presented in a way that appears professional. Sites like Wikipedia may seem trustworthy because the contributions are monitored, but some things do slip through the cracks. If you just can’t let go of Wikipedia, use the references section to do your research instead; that way, you can access the original sources, make sure they are accurate, and use them directly. Other sites might have a lot of information but not a lot of clear sources, or they are presenting the information in a way that is biased. There are quite a few criteria that you should use to evaluate a web site:
- What type of domain is it? (.com, .org, .edu, .gov…)
- Who wrote the page/site? Is it someone’s personal page/site?
- Who published the site?
- What are the author’s credentials?
- How recent is the site/page?
- Are the sources documented with links and/or notes? Are they accurate?
- Are there working links to more resources?
- Why was the page/site put on the web?
- Is there any evidence of bias?
- Is the site/page appropriate for your purpose?
You might also want to run the site through Alexa, a tool that provides a site’s statistics, activity, popularity, and more. Internet directories such as DMOZ are useful tools for finding out how well rated a site is.
This may seem like a lot of work, but it will save you the time and energy you would be spending redoing your research because the sources you found were unreliable. Use those guidelines to make informed choices about what sources you use on the web. If you make it a habit to stop and evaluate your sources, it will become second nature and will make your research infinitely stronger.
Check out this video for more information on how to evaluate websites: