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Making Your Own Decisions

For some projects educators would like their students to complete the students will find many useful resources available through the options just described. However, reviews exist for only a small proportion of Internet content, and in many cases you may want to go beyond the prescreened sources. Frankly, using pre-selected resources does not totally prepare students for the realities of solving their own information problems. At some point, we all must explore what the Internet has to offer and make our own decisions regarding what resources are likely credible and appropriate to the questions we have.

In the Primer, we identify some of the specific questions that can be helpful in evaluating content. Some these questions include:

  • Who is responsible for this information? Who is the author? Is an organization responsible for the content?
  • Is the organization an official academic or scholarly one? Is there a logical connection between the organization and the type of information offered at the web site? Would such a connection indicate a possible bias or just a commitment to support work in a particular area?
  • If the document is an attempt to summarize the findings from other sources, are the conclusions adequately referenced or linked to other work?

There are many ways in which you can use the Internet to evaluate the credibility and quality of online resources. Consider how Google establishes the likely value of resources when ordering the results from a search. While the details of the process are not something the company makes public, it is known that a major part of the process takes into account the number and importance of sites linking to a site. The logic is that important and useful sites will be linked to by others. If some of these other sites are also popular sites, links from these sites are given extra value. This makes some sense - it is somewhat like conducting a survey to determine if others have found a site to be useful.

You can experiment with this approach yourself. If you go the Google Search page and select advanced search, you should be able to locate a specific search box that will "find pages that link to the page" (you enter the page of interest in the search box). Try link:pageaddress (e.g., This is an imperfect technique, but worth a try. Identify a page you feel contains questionable information and see what sites link to this page. Do the links originate on sites with an obvious bias? Do the links originate on pages with a different point of view, but link to the site to argue against the position taken? How is the information fron the site you are investigating used on other sites?

Links for additional information on the evaluation of web resources

Critical Evaluation information - Kathy Schrock guide

DMHO - Dihyrdogen Monoxide Research - just explore and see what you think (what is DMHO?)

Evaluating web pages - UC Berkely guidelines

Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus - frequently mentioned example of a fabricated online resource.

Web sites to validate - Alan November resource


Research concerning web site evaluation

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