Radzvickas Evaluating Web Information

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Slide 1

The Internet can be a useful source of information. However, there are some Web sites that are good sources for a paper, and a whole lot of Web sites that are not good sources for a paper. Because there is no quality control for information on the Internet, you need to evaluate the information that you find to see if it is reliable information. This presentation gives you some tools to evaluate Web sources of information. Also, the Internet does not contain all information; most scholarly journals are in only the library’s periodical databases, although there are some scholarly journals on the Internet.

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How current is the information? Most Web sites do not indicate when the information was written or updated. However, more reliable Web sites include a date when the information was written, a date when the information was updated, or both. You need to determine whether you need very current information or whether you can use older information. Some examples of topics that require current information are technology topics, which become obsolete quickly, and current events. Another item to check is whether the links still work, which gives an indication of how old the site might be.

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Is the information relevant to your topic? Even the most reliable information is useless if it does not relate to your topic. Does the information answer your research question? If you examine your list of references, you should see a common theme, as in the first example on this slide. You need to determine whether the audience is appropriate for your paper; for example, does the Web site contain scholarly information, as in the second example, if your paper requires scholarly information? Is the information written at a reading level that is appropriate for college students?

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Who developed the information? Many Web sites do not indicate who wrote the information. Generally information is less reliable if no one is willing to sign his or her name to it. (Look at anonymous comments to news articles for an example.) What are the author’s credentials? In the second example, the authors are affiliated with a university, which gives them more credibility. You need to determine whether the author has expertise on the subject. Is there a way to contact the author, such as an e-mail address? Who published the information? One way to get a general idea of who published the information is to look at the suffix of the URL. .com indicates a commercial site. .edu indicates a college or university. .gov is a state or federal government site.

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How accurate is the information? You need to analyze whether the information is consistent with other information about the topic. Also, information is more likely to be accurate if the author supplies data that backs up his or her claims, such as in the first example on this slide. Information that has been peer reviewed or refereed has been approved by other experts in the field, as in the second example. Finally, if there are a lot of spelling or grammar errors, the information obviously has not been reviewed carefully, and it is less likely to be accurate.

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What is the purpose of the information? Is it to sell you something, convince you that a point of view is correct, or describe a research study? Does the author have a bias? Sometimes articles that give an author’s opinion about a subject is labeled “Editorial” or “Opinion,” but not always. Biased information is appropriate for some types of papers, such as those that compare and contrast different points of view on a controversial topic. However, biased information is less appropriate for a scholarly research paper. Does the author indicate whether the information is opinion or fact?

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You can also use these criteria to evaluate non-Internet information. However, commercial information, such as articles in periodical databases or books, generally undergoes a review process to determine if the information is reliable, unlike most Internet information.

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Now, let’s use the criteria to evaluate Wikipedia. Wikipedia does not indicate when the information was written or updated. You don’t know the name of the people who have written or updated the article, and you don’t know if they have the credentials to be an expert on the topic. No one has reviewed the information for accuracy, and articles rarely are based on data. No one has reviewed the information for objectivity, unlike the information in traditional encyclopedias. An article on a technical topic such as XML is more likely to be objective, but articles on controversial topics might not be objective. So, do you think that Wikipedia is a good source for your papers?

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Most instructors would say that no, Wikipedia is not a good source for your papers. However, Wikipedia is useful when you are looking for a brief summary of a topic as background information to help formulate, broaden, or narrow a topic. Also, the articles cited by the Wikipedia article often are good first sources for your paper.

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Evaluating Web Information Adrienne Radzvickas • Library Assistant ef7518@wayne.edu • adriennerad@hotmail.com

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Evaluating Web information Some points to consider in evaluating Web information1: How current is the information? Is the information relevant to your topic? Who developed the information? What are his or her credentials? How accurate is the information? What is the purpose of the information? 1. Based on Merriam Library, California State University, Chico, 2010

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How current is the information?

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Is the information relevant for your topic?

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Who developed the information?

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How accurate is the information?

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What is the purpose of the information?

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Evaluating information You can also use these questions to evaluate any kind of information, not just Web sites.

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Wikipedia

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Wikipedia, continued

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You’re done! Thank you for viewing the presentation. Please take the Evaluating Web Information quiz and bring it with you to class.

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References Adams, M. (2011). The death penalty does not deter liberals. Townhall.com. Retrieved from http://townhall.com/columnists/mikeadams/2011/05/02/the_death_penalty_does_not_deter_liberals Cheap robots vs. cheap labor. (2011). The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/15/opinion/cheap-robots-vs-cheap-labor.html?ref=editorials Evelyn S. Field Library. (2011). Library @RVCC: Library research videos and tutorials. Retrieved from http://library.raritanval.edu/infolit1/welcome.asp Gross, D. (2011). New IBM computer chip mimics the human brain. CNN.com. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/innovation/08/18/ibm.brain.chip/index.html

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References, continued Kanne, C., & Moerkotte. (2000). Efficient storage of XML data. Paper presented at the 16th International Conference on Data Engineering (ICDE'00). Retrieved from http://www.computer.org/portal/web/csdl/doi/10.1109/ICDE.2000.839412 Keller, A., Eng, J., Zhang, N., Li, X.-j., & Aebersold, R. (2005). A uniform proteomics MS/MS analysis platform utilizing open XML file formats. Mol Syst Biol, 1. Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/msb/journal/v1/n1/full/msb4100024.html Merriam Library, California State University, Chico. (2010). Evaluating Information – Applying the CRAAP test. Retrieved from http://www.csuchico.edu/lins/handouts/eval_websites.pdf Radzvickas, Adrienne. (2011). Searching Using Folksonomy Tags in a Public Library Catalog. Unpublished manuscript.

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References, continued Shiffman, R. N., Karras, B. T., Agrawal, A., Chen, R., Marenco, L., & Nath, S. (2000). GEM: A proposal for a more comprehensive guideline document model using XML. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 7(5), 488-498. Retrieved from http://jamia.bmj.com/content/7/5/488.short XML. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xml

Summary: This presentation provides criteria that students can use to evaluate whether a Web site is a good source for their papers.

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