How Do You Choose Reliable Information on the Net?
The internet is filled with all kinds of information. Some of the information, however, is not suitable to include in college research papers. The goal of this section is to help you evaluate the information on the net for its reliability and to introduce you to a scholarly search engine (scholar.google.com) appropriate for college research. As you evaluate the many websites you find on the net, consider these criteria for identifying quality information. Keep in mind that every one of these criteria does not have to be satisfactorily met in order for the information to be useful to you. But, generally speaking, if the first three (1, 2, and 3 below) cannot be clearly identified, the information is probably suspect.
Here are the criteria you should base your decisions on:
1. Look for .edu, .gov, .org in the address. These extensions usually indicate the information presented is of a scholarly nature. That is not to say that .com, and other addresses should be totally avoided. It simply means that you should scrutinize a .com more carefully because its purpose is usually "commercial" in nature: i.e., to sell you something.
2. Is it clear who is responsible for the page’s content? This is highly important in your selection process. If you cannot establish who is responsible for the information presented, a huge red flag should go up in your mind. After you determine who has produced the information, then you must ask yourself whether this person or group is respectable. Can they be trusted to put out the unbiased truth in their literature?
3. Is the information on the page backed by legitimate research? This is the most important criterion of all. If the information on the webpage is backed by good research, it can be used in your paper regardless of whether any of the other criteria (1, 2, 4, or 5) is present. To identify legitimate research, look for Works Cited pages, footnotes, or direct links to research that back up their statements. There are thousands of websites out there whose sole intention is to further their agendas. Look at the language they use in their postings. Do you detect inflammatory language? Do you detect language that creates an emotional (either positive or negative) response in you? If you can answer yes to this question, the information is undoubtedly biased, but if this biased information is supported with legitimate research, it’s acceptable to use in your paper.
4. Is the information current? Is a date given? This is especially important if you are limited to using only recent information in your research project.
5. Is the site complete, or is it still under construction?
|Credibility||trustworthy source, author's credentials, evidence of quality control, known or respected authority, organizational support. Goal: an authoritative source, a source that supplies some good evidence that allows you to trust it.|
|Accuracy||up-to-date, factual, detailed, exact, comprehensive, audience and purpose reflect intentions of completeness and accuracy. Goal: a source that is correct today (not yesterday), a source that gives the whole truth.|
|Reasonableness||fair, balanced, objective, reasoned, no conflict of interest, absence of fallacies or slanted tone. Goal: a source that engages the subject thoughtfully and reasonably, concerned with the truth.|
|Support||listed sources, contact information, available corroboration, claims supported, documentation supplied. Goal: a source that provides convincing evidence for the claims made, a source you can triangulate (find at least two other sources that support it).|
At the top of your screen, type "www.google.com", or, just type your search in the address bar. In any of the results produced in the search, find one reliable web site that might be useful to you and apply the questions from the CARS Checklist. (Also, if you can answer "yes" to the questions below, it's usually safe to assume the website is reliable.)
Important hints that a website is reliable
1. Are you able to determine if the person or group responsible for the page's content is an expert on your topic?
2. Does the page contain a works cited page, footnotes, and/or links to research that supports the points given?