Evaluating the Internet Why is the internet (the free web) both a “good” and “bad” place to find information for a scholarly paper? “Good” Source “Bad” Source Ask yourself: Is the site good enough to cite? Since sites on the Internet are not “policed” and reviewed by editors, you have to become a detective to determine whether a site is reliable enough for your research. How can you tell if you are using a “good” source? Use the 5 W’s –Who –What –When –Where –Why The first “W”: Who What do you know about the author? Are the author’s credentials, education and expertise enough to assure you that the information in this source is reliable and accurate? 2. If there are no credentials listed for the author, does the site have a reliable sponsor or publisher? 3. An email address with no additional information is not sufficient for assessing the author’s credentials. 1. What if you can’t find information about the author? Look for clues to answer the question who? Words and phrases to look for: – About us, Who Am I, FAQs, For More, Company Information, Profiles, Our Staff, Home Email the author – You can write a polite email asking for more information. More clues . . . Do a link check – In Google or AltaVista type Link:siteaddress – Your results will show which other sites have chosen to link to this page. If respectable institutions have linked to a site, that provides a clue about the site’s credibility. Does the site appear in major subject directories like Librarians Index to the Internet (www.lii.org)? Truncate the URL – Go from: http://www.unmuseum.org/bigfoot.htm TO http://www.unmuseum.org The second “W”: What What is the purpose of the site and how accurate is it? What is the purpose of the site (e.g. advertising, informational, persuasive, etc.) and does that purpose fit your paper? Can the accuracy of facts, statistics and other information be verified through other sources? Do there appear to be errors on the page (spelling, grammar, facts) that make this site a poor choice? Looking closely at the URL can help you with the “what” question!!! . gov = Government Sites 2. . edu = Educational Sites 3. . org = Organizations 1. a. Example A b. Example B 4. .com = Commercial Sites a. Example A b. Example B 5. .net = Network sites The third “W”: When 1. When was the site last created or updated? Undated factual and statistical information is no better than anonymous information; don’t use it. 2. Is the information current enough for your paper’s purpose? The fourth “W”: Where Where did the site get its information? In other words, what are its sources? 1. Are there indicators of quality information such as a list of sources, bibliography, related sites, additional links? 2. Are these sources real? Reliable? Credible? Can you, your teacher or librarian verify them? The bottom line . . . Don’t take Internet sources at face value!!! The fifth “W”: Why Why should (or shouldn’t) you use this site for your scholarly research? Your answers to the previous questions should enable you to answer the question: Is the site good enough to cite? Your teacher will evaluate your work based on the quality of the sources you select. Don’t settle for good enough!!! Remember, the internet (free web) is NOT your only choice. Use print sources and subscription databases since these have already been evaluated for their credibility and content.