It Looks Lovely, But Is It True? Resource Person: Saem Mashhud Tariq Since you were a child, adults were selecting books for you. Your parents chose books for you to read, while your teachers chose texts for you to use. Now that you are old enough to visit the internet, you have to be able to make informed choices on your own. Resource Person: Saem Mashhud Tariq The Big Lie There is one belief we must unlearn as we enter cyberspace. It is erroneous and will cause us to make poor judgments. The mistaken belief is that . . . All that we see in print is true. Resource Person: Saem Mashhud Tariq As the internet becomes a more common mode of sharing information, and as the number of sites grows exponentially, you will need to distinguish fact from fiction. After all, anyone can post messages. Anyone can create a website. Anyone can pretend to be someone else. Anyone can try to mislead you. Resource Person: Saem Mashhud Tariq Armed with the right questions, you can surf the net and find valuable information that, until a few years ago, you could never access! Those questions are based upon a standard set of criteria known as the . . . CARS is an acronym for . . . Credibility, Accuracy, Reasonableness, and Support CARS Checklist for Information Quality Resource Person: Saem Mashhud Tariq Credibility Credibility merely means that an author of a web site has credentials that prove he or she is knowledgeable in a field. After all, you don’t want information about your health provided by an electrician in Ohio who enjoys reading health guides during his lunch breaks! Thus, when you arrive at a site, you should ask several important questions that will help you assess the credibility of the site. A Question of Credibility • • • • • • • • Is the author’s name present? What type of extension is at the end of the URL? Is there an “About this site” & is an e-mail address provided? Is there any biographical information listed? Does the author have a degree or job experience in the field he/she is discussing? Is there a tilde (~) in the address or URL? Is the author affiliated with a prominent institution? Does he/she include a bibliography of his/her previous published works? ? Anonymity should be considered suspicious. A .com extension indicates a commercial site, whereas an edu, gov or org extension indicates an education, government or organization site. An author should be forthcoming with information about himself, his experience, and his affiliations. If any of the information provided seems fraudulent, try to cross-reference his name and check his affiliations. Also, if a tilde appears in his URL, it indicates that the site is a personal page created by an individual, not an institution. In addition, make sure the site is not created to sell a product. Usually, a “commercial” site will contain “com” in its URL. Finally, use good judgment and trust your instincts! Resource Person: Saem Mashhud Tariq Accuracy Accuracy merely means that the information offered at a site is correct and supported by other reputable sources. If a site is inaccurate, its intention may be to mislead you. Thus, when you arrive at a site, you should ask several important questions that will help you assess the accuracy of the site. Resource Person: Saem Mashhud Tariq A Question of Accuracy • • • • • • • • Does the site contain numerous spelling errors or numerical inaccuracies? Does it include information that is contradicted by other sites? Does it contradict itself? Is the information outdated or obsolete? Are the links functioning? Are they annotated? Has the site been operating properly each time you visited? Is the content meaningful? Does it seem like fact or fiction? ? You should be leery if a site includes errors. This suggests that the author is a questionable source of information. So too, whenever you find a site that seems like an ambiguous blend of fact and fiction, or includes nonsensical information, quickly move to another site. Also, if a site or its links do not operate properly, you cannot depend on them to provide current data. In fact, you can go to “File” and “Properties” or “Get Info” to find the last date a site was updated! Finally, any website that seems intentionally confusing or distracting should be avoided. Reasonableness Reasonableness merely means that the information, data, tone, argument and perspective offered at a site are judicious and reasonable. Remember, your goal is to avoid the odd and unreasonable world of the Internut Thus, when you arrive at a site, you should ask several important questions that will help you assess the reasonableness of the site. A Question of Reasonableness • • • • • • • Is the purpose stated clearly? Is a reasonable tone maintained throughout? Does it offer a well-balanced argument that provides various perspectives? Does it include biased views or exaggeration? Are there glaring flaws in the arguments provided? Does the author share extremist views that reveal undue anger or anxiety? Does the author request personal data from the viewer? ? The sites that should cause you concern are those that espouse prejudicial or slanted views rather than offering a variety of opinions on a given topic. Even position papers must offer differing views and rebuttals. Obviously, exaggeration and misleading information should also cause you to be highly critical of a site. Likewise, if the explanations are rambling and unfocused, or betray extremist views, you should move on to a more reasonable site. Lastly, whenever a site prompts you to provide information about yourself, avoid it! Resource Person: Saem Mashhud Tariq Support Support merely means that the site is sponsored by accredited institutions, and that the author is closely affiliated with major, respected organizations. Another meaning of support is that the points made at the site are supported by evidence. Thus, when you arrive at a site, you should ask several important questions that will help you assess the support of the site. A Question of Support • • • • • • Are prominent, respected institutions identified as affiliates of the site? Is an abbreviation for a respected institution included in the URL? Does the site offer instructional support materials from those organizations or links to them? Does it contain primary source material and links to supporting documentation? Are the points made proven by sound data from reliable sources? Can you contact the affiliate organizations? ? Web site authors who are credible will provide information regarding themselves & their affiliates. If they are trustworthy, they will include links as well methods of contacting those organizations. In fact, an abbreviation for one of those institutions may appear in the address: the URL may even include “edu” or “gov.” For a complete list, visit http://www.drbillbailey.net/extensions.h tml. Furthermore, relevant examples, data and proof should be provided in a clear and coherent fashion. The site should clearly indicate whether its intention is to inform, persuade, educate, or entertain the viewer, so that you can be an informed, critical reader. Resource Person: Saem Mashhud Tariq The Final Analysis In addition to each of these elements (credibility, accuracy, reasonableness, support), a site should be user friendly. Its structure and design should suggest that the author has his viewers’ best interests in mind. Thus, when you evaluate a site, you may want to consider the following: The SEARCH ENGINE you choose should provide more educational and government sites than commercial sites (commercial sites usually end in “.com” or DOTCOM, an abbreviation for commercial). Avoid engines like Yahoo that bombard you with commercial sites and pop-ups. The site should be easy to navigate. The site should be audience appropriate. The internal & external links should function. The images as well as the pages should load quickly. The visual elements should help, not hinder, the viewer’s understanding. The icons should make sense and the directions should be clear. The helper applications should be easily accessible. The site should include an index and navigation buttons. The site should provide a “Works Cited” or Bibliography. Some Library and University Websites that List and Further Explain Criteria http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/Evaluate.html http://www.library.jhu.edu/researchhelp/general/evaluating/index.html http://lib.nmsu.edu/instruction/evalcrit.html http://library.lakeforest.edu/help/evalweb.html Online Checklists for High School and Lower Grades http://www.lib.umd.edu/guides/webcheck.html http://www.quick.org.uk/menu.htm Every Checklist Imaginable http://school.discoveryeducation.com/schrockguide/eval.html A High School Website Evaluation Webquest http://www.sdst.org/shs/library/evalwebstu.html http://www.lib.purdue.edu/rguides/studentinstruction/evaluation/evaluatingwebsites.html REVIEW 1. For what is CARS an abbreviation? 2. What must we “unlearn” as we use the internet? 3. In your opinion, what is the MOST important criterion of CARS? Why? Be prepared to support your answer! 4. What does a tilde indicate? 5. How can you find out when a site was last updated? 6. What type of tone and what kind of argument should you find at a reliable, credible website? 7. URL addresses that are accredited USUALLY end using particular extensions or abbreviations. What are they? 8. What should the viewer take into account when considering affiliates? 9. When you are researching a topic, what types of search engines should you avoid? 10. Find a website that you would argue fails the CARS criteria in a number of ways and prepare your evidence OR Find a website that you believe meets the CARS criteria and prepare you evidence. List the address and the evidence!