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  • 1. Evaluation of Web documents How to interpret the basics 1. Accuracy of Web Documents Who wrote the page and can you contact him or her? What is the purpose of the document and why was it produced? Is this person qualified to write this document? Accuracy Make sure author provides e-mail or a contact address/phone number. Know the distinction between author and Webmaster. 2. Authority of Web Documents Who published the document and is it separate from the "Webmaster?" Check the domain of the document, what institution publishes this document? Does the publisher list his or her qualifications? Authority What credentials are listed for the authors)? Where is the document published? Check URL domain. 3. Objectivity of Web Documents What goals/objectives does this page meet? How detailed is the information? What opinions (if any) are expressed by the author? Objectivity Determine if page is a mask for advertising; if so information might be biased. View any Web page as you would an infommercial on television. Ask yourself: why was this written and for whom? 4. Currency of Web Documents When was it produced? When was it updated?
  • 2. How up-to-date are the links (if any)? Currency How many dead links are on the page? Are the links current or updated regularly? Is the information on the page outdated? 5. Coverage of the Web Documents Are the links (if any) evaluated and do they complement the documents' themes? Is it all images or a balance of text and images? Is the information presented cited correctly? Coverage If page requires special software to view the information, how much are you missing if you don't have the software? Is it free or is there a fee to obtain the information? Is there an option for text only, or frames, or a suggested browser for better viewing? Putting it all together Accuracy. If your page lists the author and institution that published the page and provides a way of contacting him/her and . . . Authority. If your page lists the author credentials and its domain is preferred (.edu, .gov, .org, or .net), and, . . Objectivity. If your page provides accurate information with limited advertising and it is objective in presenting the information, and . . . Currency. If your page is current and updated regularly (as stated on the page) and the links (if any) are also up-to-date, and . . . Coverage. If you can view the information properly--not limited to fees, browser technology, or software requirement, then . . . You may have a Web page that could be of value to your research!
  • 3. 6 Criteria for Websites These six criteria deal with the content of Web sites rather than the graphics or site design. Apply these criteria when you research on the internet. 1. AUTHORITY Authority reveals that the person, institution or agency responsible for a site has the qualifications and knowledge to do so. Evaluating a web site for authority: Authorship: It should be clear who developed the site. Contact information should be clearly provided: e-mail address, snail mail address, phone number, and fax number. Credentials: the author should state qualifications, credentials, or personal background that gives them authority to present information. Check to see if the site supported by an organization or a commercial body 2. PURPOSE The purpose of the information presented in the site should be clear. Some sites are meant to inform, persuade, state an opinion, entertain, or parody something or someone. Evaluating a web site for purpose: Does the content support the purpose of the site? Is the information geared to a specific audience (students, scholars, general reader)? Is the site organized and focused? Are the outside links appropriate for the site? Does the site evaluate the links? Check the domain of the site. The URL may indicate its purpose. 3. COVERAGE
  • 4. It is difficult to assess the extent of coverage since depth in a site, through the use of links, can be infinite. One author may claim comprehensive coverage of a topic while another may cover just one aspect of a topic. Evaluating a web site for coverage: Does the site claim to be selective or comprehensive? Are the topics explored in depth? Compare the value of the site’s information compared to other similar sites. Do the links go to outside sites rather than its own? Does the site provide information with no relevant outside links? 4. CURRENCY Currency of the site refers to: 1) how current the information presented is, and 2) how often the site is updated or maintained. It is important to know when a site was created, when it was last updated, and if all of the links are current. Evaluating a web site for currency involves finding the date information was: first written placed on the web last revised Then ask if: Links are up-to-date Links provided should be reliable. Dead links or references to sites that have moved are not useful. Information provided so trend related that its usefulness is limited to a certain time period? the site been under construction for some time? 5. OBJECTIVITY Objectivity of the site should be clear. Beware of sites that contain bias or do not admit its bias freely. Objective sites present information with a minimum of bias. Evaluating a web site for objectivity: Is the information presented with a particular bias? Does the information try to sway the audience? Does site advertising conflict with the content?
  • 5. Is the site trying to explain, inform, persuade, or sell something? 6. ACCURACY There are few standards to verify the accuracy of information on the web. It is the responsibility of the reader to assess the information presented. Evaluating a web site for accuracy: Reliability: Is the author affiliated with a known, respectable institution? References: do statistics and other factual information receive proper references as to their origin? Does the reading you have already done on the subject make the information seem accurate? Is the information comparable to other sites on the same topic? Does the text follow basic rules of grammar, spelling and composition? Is a bibliography or reference list included? criteria 1. Accuracy Why it's important: Anyone can publish anything they wish on the Web. Unlike print resources, the Web does not have editors and fact-checkers. No standards exist to ensure accuracy on the Web. Check questions: Is the information reliable?
  • 6. Is there an editor? Examples: Dog Island Inaccuracy: This site claims there is an island off the coast of Florida that has been designated specifically for dogs. People can send their dogs to Dog Island to "live a natural, healthy and happy life, free from the stress and hardship associated with daily life among humans." This is not a real site! Accurate Sources: Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi's Gulf Base project. Yes, there really is a Dog Island, but it is not inhabited by dogs. This site gives us some insight into what Dog Island really is. Internet fact-checkers also found that this site was indeed fake at Snopes.com. If you need further proof, the Dog Island website includes a disclaimer so we are left in no doubt that the authors of this site are simply having fun. The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus Inaccuracies: Another fake page! But the point here is that people do intentionally place inaccurate information on the Web, either in jest in the case of Dog Island, or as a training tool, or for any other number of reasons. Notice the link to "The Bureau of Sasquatch Affairs," which does not take you to a new site, but rather a new page on this site. Accurate Sources: Bettelheim, Matthew. "Tentacled Tree Hugger Disarms Seventh Graders." Inkling Magazine. Remember to double-check a source, especially if found on the Internet. While some of the pictures of the tree octopus look convincing, there are no entries for "Tree Octopus" anywhere in the Encyclopedia Britannica or Worldbook Encyclopedia. The above article tells us that this site is actually used as an Internet literacy training tool, although it began as a hoax. 2. Authority
  • 7. Why it's important: Again, anyone can publish anything on the Web. The author's identity may not be easy to determine. The author may or may not have the proper credentials. Sponsorship may not be apparent. Check questions: Is the page "signed"? Is the author qualified? An expert? Is the page sponsored? By a reputable institution? Is there a link with more information about the author and/or sponsor? What is the domain? (.gov, .edu, .com, .org) Is there a tilde (~) in the URL? Examples: GigaLaw.com Authoritative Source: GigaLaw.com was founded by intellectual property, technology and Internet law attorney Douglas M. Isenberg to provide "legal information for Internet and technology professionals, Internet entrepreneurs and the lawyers who serve them." The site clearly lists the author, Doug Isenberg, whose credentials can be found, as well as contact information for his corporate sponsor, the Giga Law Firm. Ancient Metallurgy Authoritative? Notice the web address. There is a tilde (~) in the URL, which may mean this is a
  • 8. student or faculty member's personal site. There are sources listed at the bottom of the page, so we could use these to conduct our own research, at the very least. In order to find out who created this content, we must find the main page of the author. There is a link at the top of the page, where we can find more information about David K. Jordan, the author. He is a professor of Anthropology, and is most likely an expert on the subject of Ancient Metallurgy, according to his credentials. Clicking on links such as "About Us" or "Contact Us" can give us information about authors and sponsoring organizations. Wikipedia See the highlighted portions of this article on Hendersonville, North Carolina from Wikipedia Non-authoritative: Sites like Wikipedia, although packaged very nicely, operate outside of any established guidelines on authority. Basically, just about anyone can contribute and edit Wikipedia articles, which can result in the distribution of incorrect information. So if the culprit was able to add this ridiculous information, what else might he or she have added or changed that is not so obvious? And, if you check the "last modified" information at the bottom of the page, this page was last changed FOUR DAYS before this copy was made! So this erroneous information has been in place a least that long without being corrected. See also this article on Jeremiah Smith from Wikipedia Non-authoritative: This article states that Jeremiah Smith was born in 1759, but was somehow elected Governor of New Hampshire in 2009. Smith also died in 2042. Does Wikipedia tell the future? Clearly, this article has not been fact-checked. 3. Objectivity Why it's important: Often the true goals and objectives of the author/sponsor are not stated. The Web is a virtual "soapbox," for any person or organization with an agenda.
  • 9. Check questions: Does the information show a minimum of bias? Is the page designed to sway opinion? Can you detect political, ideological, or religious bias? Who is the target audience? Is there advertising on the page? Again, what is the domain? (.gov, .edu, .com, .org) Examples: Right Wing News Biased: The title of the site says it all. Also keep in mind that many of the articles on the site are editorial in nature, another clue that this is not an objective site. Democratic Underground Biased: Checking the "About Us" page of many sites will often tell you whether or not a site is biased, based on the information listed. Here, the "About" section clearly states that "Democratic Underground is an online community where politically liberal people can do their part to effect political and social change." FactCheck.org - Annenberg Political Fact Check More Objective: Examines the actual truth behind all of the politicking and postering. Visiting the "About Us" portion of any website may also give insight into the true objective of any organization, such as FactCheck.org.
  • 10. 4. Currency Why it's important: Information may be out of date. Publication and revision dates are not always provided. If a date is provided it may refer to the date of original publication, the date it was first posted on the Web, or the date it was last updated. Check questions: Is the page dated? With qualification? ("In place: July 1999," "Last revised: August 4, 1996") Is it apparent from the content? ("Buy the new Windows95!", "President Clinton commented from the Oval Office...") How current are the links? Have some expired or moved? Examples: Science Daily Current: This site is bursting at the seams with information, and the articles on the main news page include today's date, implying the site is current. Looking at the About This Site link, we find that the site obtains information from Universities and other research organizations. The site also provides information about the editors, including their expertise and credentials. Face-off: Netscape Navigator 9.0 vs. Firefox 2.0 Not Current: Official support of Netscape ended March 1, 2008, with Netscape making way for the Mozilla Firefox browser. This link may remain active for some time, but is certainly not current. More Current: Netscape explains its decision to end support of their browser at this site: The
  • 11. Netscape Archive. Here, they provide download links to alternative browsers, including Firefox. 5. Coverage Why it's important: Web coverage often differs from print. Coverage can be difficult to determine at a glance. Who is the audience? Beginners? Experts? Professionals? Consumers?, etc. Is the information too simple? Too technical, or complicated? Some sites are just for fun. Check questions: What topics are covered? What does this page offer that is unique? Who is the target audience? How in-depth is the material? Examples: Biography of Abraham Lincoln Lack of Coverage: Although this page is from an authoritative source, the white house, and is probably accurate, it does not provide much coverage of the topic. Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project Broader Coverage: This site provides much more information and plenty of references to research.
  • 12. Criteria for Evaluating Web Resources Purpose Authority Objectivity Appropriateness Currency Responsibility Clarity Accessibility Examples below represent particularly good or especially bad web sites for the criterion in question. Can you tell which is which? Purpose NANODOCS What is the purpose of the site or page? Look for tips in graphics and text. Web pages may be...
  • 13. commercial informative educational entertaining persuasive personal institutional a hoax (see below) What does the URL (Web address) say about the producer of the web site, and its purpose? Authority Growing herbs in the home garden Who is the author? What are his credentials? Does he have sufficient authority to speak on the subject? Is there any way to reach him? Is there an organizational or corporate sponsor? Is this page authentic, or is it a hoax? Is there a reference list? Objectivity
  • 14. Environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality in a prospective study of Californians, 1960-98 Does the content reflect a bias? Is the bias explicit or hidden? Does the identity of the author or sponsor suggest a bias? How does the bias impact the usefulness of the information? Appropriateness & Relevance Women and Aids Is the content appropriate for your classroom or your assignment? Is the reading level appropriate for your students? Is the content appropriate for the age or developmental level of your students? Is the content accurate, complete, well-written? Is the content relevant to your topic or question? Currency CNN Is the information on the page up-to-date?
  • 15. Can you tell when the page was last updated? Are there dead links? Is there a difference between the date the information was created and the date the page was last updated? Responsibility Pregnant women can drink safely in moderation Are the authors up-front about their purpose and content? Is there a way to contact the authors? Do the authors give credit for information used? Is there a reference list? Clarity A New Beginning for Life Is the information clearly presented? Is the text neat, legible and formatted for easy reading? If there are graphics, do they add to the content or distract? If there are advertisements, do they interfere with your ability to use the page? Are the pages well organized? Are there mistakes in spelling or word usage?
  • 16. Accessibility MSNBC Can you get in? Does the site load quickly? Can you move around the site easily? Is the site or page still there next time? Is there a text-only alternative for the visually-impaired?