Assessing the Quality of Web Information
There are lots of
good information sources on the Web, and lots of bad ones. So it's up
to you to critically evaluate any information from the Web. Asking yourself
the 5 W questions Who, What, When, Where,
and Why can help you evaluate and determine if the information
is what you want to use in your assignment.
is the author of the web site and What
are their credentials (expertise)? Does the web page offer you any
indication of the author's authority or credentials as an expert in
the field? If you have any questions about the qualifications of the
author, you can check with a librarian to learn more about the author.
You can also search the author's name in a web search engine to see
what other people are saying about the author. This technique can be
tricky, because if the author's opinions or work are controversial,
other people will have strong opinions about the author and his/her
work. Weigh all opinions carefully.
was the information published or written? How current is the information
in the page? Old or seemingly dated information can sometimes indicate
that the web page may not be currently maintained. The importance of
this point depends on the kind of information you need for your topic.
If you are looking for research on ancient history or literary criticism
of an older book, you may be able to use information that is older because
the subject itself hasn't changed recently. But if you are seeking information
on a quickly changing or evolving topic like cloning, you'll need the
most current information possible. Look closely at the dates of any
information referenced or linked within the web page.
was the information published? Is the web site's information drawn
from reliable research sources such as journal articles or reference
books? Does the web author document that information with citations,
references or links? If the information is from scholarly sources such
as journal articles or books, the web page should have citations to
these sources in case you want to verify the information. While it may
take some extra time, it's sometimes good to stop at the library and
verify the credibility of any information in question.
More importantly, is the information in the web page as good as what
you would find in scholarly books and journal articles? There are
lots of good information sources on the Web, and lots of bad ones. While
using the Web for research is convenient, it may not be the best place
to find what you need. Your library spends thousands of dollars buying
high quality research materials to ensure you have the best information
possible for your research. If the material in the web page doesn't
seem good enough for your research, you may want to use another information
source, or stop by the library to find better, more reliable sources
for your research.
was the page created? Be careful to read the information critically
with regard to bias on the part of the information producer or author.
Ask yourself: Who is the intended audience? What is the purpose of the
web page? Are all sides of an issue discussed, or alternative viewpoints
included? Consider the affiliations and credentials of the producer
of the information, and if she/he has any bias or philosophical agenda.