Using & Evaluating Web Pages STEPHENS-BURNETT MEMORIAL LIBRARY CARSON-NEWMAN COLLEGE In this unit you will be learning about the “Free Web” (web sites that anyone can access)… …NOT electronic resources from the library delivered via the web (journal articles from our online databases, etc.) And yes, we know you’re already pretty good at searching the web…but finding last night’s football score is different than looking for an objective, authoritative, current, accurate, comprehensive web page about a research topic. So let’s learn what’s different between the free web and subscription databases, and how you can evaluate and pick the best web sites for your research… The “Web” vs. Library databases for research… The Web Library Databases The internet is like shopping at garage sales or second hand shops. There is something for everyone. A general database like General OneFile is like shopping at Target or Walmart. You can find information on many topics in many types of resources. Some web search engines narrow what they search or arrange by subject areas (Directories). Likewise, there are specialty second hand shops that sell only collectibles or antiques. There are specialized, discipline specific databases. Likewise, there are shops that sell only shoes, linens or furniture. The resources you find can be good stuff, but you have to sift through a lot of junk to find it. The information that is indexed in the databases, general or specialized, has been selected and related to the subjects for research use. You have to evaluate it to ensure that it is authoritative and appropriate for your need if you need scholarly information. You have to evaluate it to ensure that it is appropriate and authoritative if you need scholarly information. Can you use the “free web” for research? Yes! The web can be an excellent source for: • Current news, stock quotes, and facts or data • Government documents and agency information • Information on a prominent person • Information on companies, organizations, institutes, museums, think tanks, etc. • Entertainment sites • Popular culture information • But – not the best beginning place to search for peer-reviewed articles or scholarly books What are some types of web pages? (and why do you need to know?) • • • • • • Informational Business Advocacy News Personal Entertainment It is important to know the intended purpose of all these sites and what they can be useful for, so that you can choose the most appropriate sites from the beginning. Often the “domain ending” of the URL will give you a clue to the type of web page that you are looking at – and the intention for that page. Examples of domain endings are: .org, .edu, .com, .gov, .mus, .biz Informational • Purpose: to provide factual information • Some URL domain endings you might encounter: .gov, .org, .edu • Mouse over these examples: NIH (National Institutes of Health) CDC (Centers for Disease Control) American Cancer Society Metropolitan Museum of Art Smithsonian Institution Carson-Newman College What were the URL domain endings for these sites? Business • Purpose: to advertise or sell products or services of the business • Some URL domain endings you might encounter: .com, .biz • Examples: Microsoft Amazon Advocacy • Purpose: to influence public opinion • May be good or may be biased; you must evaluate the site to figure it out. • Some URL domain endings you might encounter: .org (but just because it’s a .org website doesn’t mean it’s a good one!) Take a look at these. Which do you consider good, which do you consider biased, and which are altogether fake? Greenpeace The John F. Kennedy Page Oxfam International Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Division What is Gun Control? Republic of Molossia News • Purpose: to provide the current news • Common URL domain ending: .com • Examples: USA Today FOX Sports Personal • Purpose: Depends on the author • Common URL domain endings: .edu or .com (depending on who is hosting the site) • Examples: Dr. Kip Wheeler’s page Kathy Schrock’s Homepage Entertainment • Purpose: to entertain • Common URL ending: .com • Examples: YouTube MSN Games Google Video You have found a web page…what next? You must evaluate the page. Why ? Not just any web page will be acceptable for college research, because… • • • • • Anyone can publish “information” on the web, from an elementary school student to someone with an unusual idea. There is no criteria or review process for publishing on the web. Information may be false or biased. The web is constantly changing. New sites are continually added and other sites often disappear or are never updated. Some web pages are hoaxes or deliberately misleading. Some sites like the entertainment ones are not for research! What are the criteria for evaluating web pages? • • • • • Authority Accuracy Purpose/Objectivity Currency Completeness of coverage We will go through each of these, with questions and suggestions to help you determine if the page meets the evaluation criteria. Authority Questions to ask: Who wrote the page? Are the author’s credentials given? Is contact information given? Who sponsored the page? What to look for? Author’s name at top or bottom of page or at end of an article. Biographical information on the author or his affiliations. Contact information given such as address, email address or phone number. Is the sponsor of the page mentioned? Look at the domain in the URL. Generally .gov, .edu, and .org sites are most reliable. Is the site a commercial internet provider such as such as AOL, Mindspring, MSN or an online community such as Geocities, Tripod, Angelfire? Individuals often put their personal web pages on these sites. They may have a tilde (~) in the URL which indicates personal pages on a larger website. Use these sites with much caution. Look at this site: Accuracy Questions to ask? • • • • Does the author have a knowledge of the topic? Does the author provide references or a bibliography ? Are there a variety of sources? If only one source, use this site with caution. Is the language the technical language of the discipline or popular language of everyday usage? What about the spelling and grammar? Is it correct? What to look for? • • • • Look at the citations, links or bibliography. Are the resources used scholarly and reputable sources or popular, reviews or news articles? Notice the language. Is it very easy or technical? Do the links used work? Look at this site: “True but little known facts…” (Con’t) Purpose/Objectivity Questions to ask? • • • • What is the purpose of the web page? Educational, entertainment, persuasion, advertising or sales, informational? Who is the intended audience? Can you detect any bias? Controversial opinions with only one side of an issue presented? Is this information on the page influenced by any advertising or sponsoring agency? What to look for? • Look again at the purpose of the page in the mission statement or “About this page”. Can you see any bias or particular advocacy or belief that is central to the mission? • Who is the audience? Children, academic researchers, general public, or shoppers? Is the vocabulary easy to read or the more professional or technical language of a discipline? • Is the information presented inflammatory, one-sided and controversial? Or is it balanced and covers opposing sides of an issue? Look at this site: “Smoking…” (con’t) Currency Questions to ask? • • • Depending on the discipline, currency may or may not be an issue. In the sciences, medicine, technology, or business, currency can be critical. Is the information on the page current or outdated ? Are the links still working and current? What to look for? • • • • Is it current in comparison to other resources? Notice the resources cited. Are they older and from about the same time period? That could mean that the page has not been updated. Check the page for the date published or last date the page was updated. Check some of the links. Are they working? Dead links can be a sign of a page that is not being maintained. Look at this site: Completeness of coverage: Questions to ask? What aspects of the topic are covered? Is there any vital information on the topic omitted? Is the material just a short review, an opinion statement, a report of research, or an in-depth study? Is the coverage comprehensive or does it cover just a certain time period or aspect? What to look for? What aspects of the topic are covered? Is there any vital information on the topic that is omitted? Is the material just a short review, an opinion statement, a report of research, or an in-depth study? Is the coverage comprehensive or does it cover just a certain time period or aspect? Examine this site: A good example of complete coverage of a topic! Even scholarly information can be found on the web… But you have to be very careful about researching the author’s credentials and evaluating the site. Try this site to search for: Scholarly Web Information Sources (http://library.cn.edu/webresources.html) under Web Resources from the Library Homepage. Plagiarism and the Internet • It is possible to purchase research papers or to “copy and paste” sections of papers from the Internet… • And it is plagiarism and a violation of the “Academic Dishonesty” policy of Carson-Newman College. Don’t end up on the chopping block! If you were able to locate these “resources,” be aware that your professor or librarian will be able to do a search and locate them, too. If you copy from a paper on the web, you are likely copying poor quality material, are cheating yourself of a chance to learn, and quite possibly securing an F for the course. After you determine that a web page is scholarly or appropriate for your research assignment, collect the following information to cite the page: • Author(s), editor(s), or compiler (if given). • Title of article. • If a reprint from a print resource, the publication information for the print source. • Title of site. • Organization, etc., responsible for the site (if given). • Version or edition of site, if given. • Date site was posted on the web or last updated. • Date that you accessed the site. • Complete URL or web address of the site.