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Information Literacy

Using the World Wide Web/Internet for Research

Using the Internet can pose problems for researchers. Unlike for books and scholarly journals, no standard of scholarship is required or enforced for material posted on the Web. Anyone can create content on the Web, and there is rarely a way to confirm someone's credentials. It is up to the researcher to evaluate a website for quality.  Use the following criteria to evaluate the credibility of information you find on the Web and to determine if a website is suitable for scholarly research:

  • Authority: What are the author's qualifications for writing on the subject? Can you locate the author(s) or site creator(s) on the page? Are they affiliated with a research institution or branch of government, for example?
  • Accuracy: How reliable and free from error is the information? You may need to double check it against a source you know is reliable (such as a book or scholarly article).
  • Objectivity: Is the information presented with a minimum of bias? Are the authors pushing one point of view? Consider this even when the site is about a topic that is not necessarily controversial--for example, was the site created by a corporation, who may be attempting to market a product to you?
  • Currency: Is the information current, and can you tell when it was published?

Check the domain of the site for clues as to its reliability (.com, .edu, .gov, .org, etc.). Some domains are restricted to certain types of organizations, while others may be bought or sold by anyone. The domains .edu, .gov and .mil are strictly limited to educational institutions, branches of government, and the military. There are no limitations on .com & .org. Always be aware of who is publishing the website.

Lessons

For general information about internet searching, check out our Research on the Web page.

The following lessons are classroom-ready and easy for faculty to incorporate into their assignments.

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