How to Identify Scholarly Books and Articles The first major step to evaluate Internet information is to be aware of the need to evaluate. Most students do not realize that some of the information which they may encounter is inaccurate, that they need to question Internet information. There are no real monitors of the information that is placed on the Internet; therefore, anyone is allowed to post anything about anyone. Look at the examples below and determine which Internet sites contain information that may not be accurate. What does one look for? (One quick and simple trick is to Google the website. For example, go to Google and put the site into the search engine and you will quickly see sites about the disreputable site pop up!) More importantly, where does one look for reputable information. For example, a site located at the homepage of Arthur R. Butz gives reasons why the Holocaust did not happen. Although a bit extreme, at least one can easily understand that false information is out there and we do need to be aware of what we are finding when looking for secondary supportive sources.. Another more famous example is the "Alternative" White House vs. the real White House. These three sites may be a real surprise. The real White House URL is http://www.whitehouse. gov, which takes the viewer to the actual site. The "alternative" White House's URL is http://www.whitehouse.net, which is a satirical view of the White House. Finally, a third site that displays pornographic material is found at http://www.whitehouse.com. Website Evaluation (PowerPoint) Look at the following sites and determine which are accurate and which are purposefully misleading? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. http://www.martinlutherking.org/ http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus/ http://www.allaboutexplorers.com/ http://www.thedogisland.com/ http://www.idiotica.com/cranium/encyclopedia/ content/civilwar.htm Look for the following for scholarly books: You find the book in a college library It is written by an expert (often with a Ph.D.) It has a long title, often with a specialized subtitle (i.e., William Faulkner: Ideology and the History of the New South) Look for the following for scholarly articles: You found the article in a scholarly database such as MLA Bibliography You found the article in an anthology of critical essays It is written by an expert (often with a Ph.D.) 6. 7. 8. 9. http://www.sudftw.com/jackcon.htm http://www.lakemichiganwhales.com/ http://www.geoffmetcalf.com/bread.html http://www.venehammerschlag.com/worldjump day/ 10. http://www.yogakitty.com/ It has a works cited list or a bibliography It has endnotes or footnotes It is published by a university press It has a long title, often with a specialized subtitle It has a works cited list or a bibliography It has endnotes or footnotes It is long (10 or more pages) It is published in an academic journal Look for the following for Academic journals: They have long specialized titles and, occasionally, subtitles (i.e. The Flannery O’Connor Review or Signs: A Journal of Feminist Scholarship) They are often published by scholarly organizations, schools and institutions They are published quarterly or bi-annually (have season or month publication dates) They have volume and issue numbers They contain long essays (10 or more pages) More Methods for Evaluation (a review): We must have strategies to evaluate the information found on the World Wide Web. There are a variety of methods of criteria to consider, ranging from personal, informal methods to the more educational, formal techniques. There is no one perfect method of evaluating information, rather "you must make an inference from a collection of clues or indicators, based on the use you plan to make of your source." ( Harris, R. ). •External/Internal Criteria External: As Dr. Nicholas Burbules suggested in the interview with Dr. Bertram Bruce and Barbara Duncan on credibility, external criteria refers to the who and where of information. In other words, who wrote the article and from where did it come? When we cannot evaluate the information itself, we can evaluate where it's coming from, and hope that those sources are credible. For example, if the author has a Ph.D. in his/her title, does this increase or decrease his/her credibility? Does this title increase your belief in their information provided, or does it decrease it? Did they include this title because otherwise they had no substantial proof of knowledge in that area/topic? These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself. Internal: Internal criteria is using our own expertise, or independent knowledge, to determine if the information is accurate. Because everyone has an area in which they are proficient, when encountering information which contains inaccurate pieces of data, one would surmise that the site is not a credible source to gather information. As Robert Harris stated, this process involves asking, "Where this source discusses facts or ideas I already know something about, does the source agree or harmonize or does it conflict, exaggerate, or distort?" He reasons that "if a source is faulty where it discusses something you know, it is likely to be faulty in areas where you do not yet know, and you should therefore be cautious and skeptical about trusting it." •Credibility Indicators There are a multitude of indicators which you can use to evaluate a site. Some of the most common indicators mentioned in several sources are to look at the following: Authorship: This is a major factor in considering the accuracy and credibility of information found on the Internet. Evaluating credentials of an author involves analyzing the educational background, past writings, expertise, and responsibility he/she has for the information. One should check the knowledge base, skills, or standards employed by the author in gathering and communicating the data. Obviously, when we look for information of critical value, we want to know the level of the authority with which he/she speaks. The most effective means of discovering the credibility of an author is to ask yourself the following questions: •Has the content been reviewed, critiqued, or verified in any way? Do authoritative sites link to the page? •What biographical information is available--author's position, address, and institutional or organizational affiliations? What are the basic values and goals of the institution or organization? Publisher: The publisher of the document should be noted. Unlike print materials, Web pages do not have to go through a screening process in order to verify that it has met the standards or aims of the organization that serves as publisher. On the contrary, the publisher of Internet materials may simply be the server (computer) where the document lives. Therefore, there are a series of questions (taken from Elizabeth Kirk's, Evaluating Information Found on the Internet) to assess the role and authority of the "publisher," or server: •Is the name of any organization given on the document you are reading? Can you contact the Webmaster from this document? •Can you link to a page where the above information is listed? •Is this organization suitable to address the topic at hand? •Does the Web page actually reside in an individual's personal Internet account, rather than being part of an official Web site? Date of Publication/Currency: Determining when the source was published is a necessary step in discerning a site's accuracy. It can usually be found at the bottom of the home page, and sometimes every page. Look to make sure the source is current or out-of-date for your specific topic. Make sure there that the document includes a publication date or a "last updated" date. And look for a date of copyright. Domain Types: This involves examining the end of the URL. For example, if the following domain types were found in the URL, you would be able to determine where the information came from: •.gov is a U.S. government site •.mil is a U.S. military site •.edu is an accredited post-secondary educational institution •.com is a commercial, for-profit entity •.org is a noncommercial, not-for-profit entity •.net is a computer network, particularly an Internet-related network •.int is an international organization •.jp, .ru, .ca, .au, etc. are country identifiers (This listing was provided by the Close Up Foundation in their article entitled, " Untangling the Web: Tip Sheet. ") In addition, Professor Geof Bowker (School of Library and Information Science), in his interview, noted that web sites are found to be more credible if the length of the URL is short and the end of the URL contains .edu, .gov, and .org, specifically. Site Format/Overall Design: Certain types of formats are more accessible on the Web, and are easier to use. When selecting first rate sites, a variety of qualities should be present. The information should be easy to find and use. The design should be appealing to its audience. The text should be easy to read, not muddled with distracting graphics, fonts, and backgrounds. The site should be well organized and easy to get around. The page should load in a reasonable amount of time and consistently be available. In addition, recognizing spelling errors, grammatical errors, and profanity will assist in evaluating Web site design. "A great site has personality and strength and character." ( ALSC Children and Technology Committee, Selection Criteria) •Purpose Credibility issues are not only related to the material itself, but also to the reader's purpose. Therefore, another method of evaluating information is to consider the viewer's purpose for using the site. For instance, a viewer's purpose might be for their personal interest or for professional or educational reasons. A person viewing a site about another country, for example, may be looking at that site to plan a vacation. The purpose of locating and evaluating the information is personal. On the other hand, if the viewer is using the site for educational reasons, such as researching the government, economy, natural resources, etc. of this country, their purpose is quite different, and a different type of site would be necessary. Obviously, this information would need to be accurate and verified in several other types of sources. These two uses of the information, personal and professional/educational, are quite different and would make a difference in the evaluation of information. •Tools The evaluation tools that have been designed and used for centuries to evaluate traditional printed resources are not sufficient in assessing the credibility of material found on the Web due to the nature of this vast new medium. However, there are a variety of tools that have been designed to assist in the evaluation of Internet information. These include checklists, surveys or worksheets, as well as rubrics. The creators of these evaluation tools have utilized different credibility indicators, which are evaluated using the criteria that they have established. A few of the more useful evaluation tools include Kathy Schrock's surveys, Alexander and Tate's checklist, as well as the CARS checklist , which assesses the credibility, accuracy, reasonableness, and support presented within an Internet site. These tools are especially useful for educators in evaluating Web sites to be incorporated into their classrooms, as well as teaching evaluation criteria and critical thinking skills to their students prior to using the Internet.