Research Skills: Evaluating Internet Sources

The advent of the Internet has increased web-based and media technology and has certainly impacted the ways in which we access and gather information. The vast span of knowledge and data that is available to us at our fingertips can be overwhelming, even daunting, if we are not armed with the proper tools, or skills for research. A critical skill for Internet research is the ability to evaluate the quality and reliability of the source. In order to avoid using sources that could be unreliable, outdated, inaccurate or biased, follow these guidelines:

1)      Consult many sources and cross-reference the information when possible. Never rely too heavily on one source for most of your information.

2)      Consider the source of the information. Is the author/sponsor/organization reputable or credible? Are they considered experts in the field? Remember, government sites, cultural organizations, and educational sites usually contain more reliable information as compared to commercial, personal, or political sites.

3)      Consider the type of information is being presented. Ask yourself if the article is balanced and objective. Is it designed to inform or persuade? Is it full of personal opinion or prejudice? Is there any evidence to support claims or arguments?

4)      Try to determine when the information was gathered or presented. Look for evidence of revisions or updates (often at the bottom of the page).

5)      Consider the purpose of the site – who is the information intended for? What audience would visit or consult the site?

6)      Look at the organization of the site – is it logically and coherently organized? Is the text well written? Are there a lot of spelling and grammatical errors? If so, you may have better luck looking elsewhere.

When you research on the Internet, keep in mind that the World Wide Web is accessible to everyone; content is not regulated and thus, a lot of what we read and learn on the Internet is inaccurate. Use the tips above to evaluate Internet sources and find the most reliable information available.

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