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Evaluating information (lecture)

  1. “We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.” - E.O.Wilson Evaluating Information Deana Greenfield - NLU LIBR 200
  2. Why is it important to evaluate information?
  3. Reasons to evaluate information Not all information is accurate, unbiased, current or authoritative Anyone can publish information on the Internet Search engines often retrieve pages based on keywords not relevancy, accuracy or quality Much of the information available on the Internet is not updated regularly What could happen if you didn’t evaluate information??
  4. Dangers of not evaluating information None Inconvenience Failing grades Loss of money Loss of job Loss of life
  5. The C.R.A.A.P Test Currency Relevancy Authority Accuracy Purpose
  6. Currency When was website created? When was it last updated? Are there broken links on the page? Check references (bibliography) to see if the information is up-to-date for the subject Does your topic demand current information? (science vs history? Statistics needed?) Examples NASA Internet Prospector
  7. Relevancy Is the information relevant to your topic? Who is the intended audience for this page? How does this page compare with others on the same topic? How would you feel defending the choice of this source to your professor? Examples Heart Disease Heart Disease
  8. Authority Who created this page? Can you find information on the page about how to contact the author? What are the credentials of the author? What does the domain name/URL reveal about the source of the information? (.com, .edu, .gov, .org, .net) Examples Weight Loss Surgery Irish Immigration
  9. Accuracy Are the original sources of information listed? Are there spelling, grammar, or other typos? Can you verify the information in independent sources? Has the content been reviewed? Does the language or tone seem biased? Examples Apollo Moon Landing Christopher Columbus
  10. Purpose Can you distinguish advertisements from the informational content? What is the purpose of the website? Inform? Persuade? Sell? Entertain? Examples Business Research Sources Small Business Research

Editor's Notes

  1. Quote is from Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge is a 1998 book by biologist E. O. Wilson. In this book, Wilson discusses methods that have been used to unite the sciences and might in the future unite them with the humanities. Wilson prefers and uses the term consilience to describe the synthesis of knowledge from different specialized fields of human endeavor. Definition of Consilience “"Literally a 'jumping together' of knowledge by the linking of facts and fact-based theory across disciplines to create a common groundwork of explanation.“”
  2. A question to open discussion – links to quote on very first slide Have students brainstorm Maybe throw out some possible scenarios Recipe with the wrong information Incorrect information on a medical site Wrong directions to a location
  3. Perhaps have students think of ways in which each of these “dangers” might occur due to incorrect information Internet/Email scams
  4. The point of the acronym is that it’s memorable – expect students to laugh, seem surprised, etc
  5. The issue of currency is important when evaluating factual information. It is important to note the date a document was created and updated, as the accuracy of the information contained in it may change with time. Remember these suggestions as you evaluate a page: Just because a page was recently updated does not mean that the information is up-to-date. Look for clues that might help you date the information. Keep in mind that for some types of information, currency is not an issue. For example, an article on current medical research or case law is more time-sensitive than an essay on Aristotle. ( Examples NASA – clearly dated at bottom – dates for many of the breaking news links Internet Prospector – last updated 2002 even though intro says “Watch these pages as the Prospector explores foreign shores for the latest in international research sources. “
  6. To identify target audience: Look at reading level of the page: is it easy to read or challenging? Does it assume previous knowledge of the subject? Consider the design of the web page: are there banner ads and animated GIFs, or does the page present a lot of text with little decoration? Possible audiences include: academic researchers, kids, buyer's of competitor's products, participants in a support group, political extremists, and more. ( Examples 2 sources related to the topic of Heart Disease – one more kids, one targeted at medical researchers (advanced technical jargon)
  7. Who created this page? Look for links that say "About us," "Philosophy," "Background," "Biography", etc. If you cannot find any links like these, you can often find this kind of information if you Truncate back the URL. INSTRUCTIONS for Truncating back a URL: In the top Location Box, delete the end characters of the URL stopping just before each / (leave the slash). Press enter to see if you can see more about the author or the origins/nature of the site providing the page. Continue this process, one slash (/) at a time, until you reach the first single / which is preceded by the domain name portion. This is the page's server or "publisher." Most common domain names Domain Meaning Example .edu created at a college or university .gov created by an official U.S. federal agency or office .org varies - in most cases the site was created by a nonprofit organization or an individual .com varies - in most cases the site was created by a for-profit organization .net varies greatly - often indicates that the site was created by a person, group, etc. that uses an Internet service provider .mil created by the U.S. military created by state-supported institution of Indiana - the .us domain requires a state code as a second level domain Most web sites fall into the following broad categories: Advocacy Web Pages Sponsored by an organization attempting to influence public opinion (that is, one trying to sell ideas). The URL of the page frequently ends in .org (organization). Business / Marketing Web Pages Sponsored by a commercial enterprise (usually it is a page trying to promote or sell products). The URL of the page frequently ends in .com (commercial). Information Web Pages Purpose is to present factual information. The URL of the page frequently ends in .gov, as many are sponsored by government agencies. Information web pages may be sponsored by an educational institution. The purpose is either to inform prospective students or educate current students. The URL of the page will almost always end in .edu. News Web Pages Primary purpose is to provide extremely current information. The URL of the page usually ends in .com (commercial). Personal Web Pages Published by an individual who may or may not be affiliated with a larger institution. Although the URL of the page may have a variety of endings (e.g. .com, .edu, .net, etc.), a tilde (~) is frequently found somewhere in the URL. Evaluating Websites ( Examples Weight Loss Surgery – Who created this page?? Credentials? Irish Immigration – no author info, no credentials even though it is a .edu site
  8. Does the purported background or education look like someone who is qualified to write on this topic? Might the page be by a hobbyist, self-proclaimed expert, or enthusiast? Is the page merely an opinion? Is there any reason you should believe its content more than any other page? Is the page a rant, an extreme view, possibly distorted or exaggerated? Criteria for evaluating accuracy include: For a research document, the data that was gathered and an explanation of the research method(s) used to gather and interpret it are included. The methodology outlined in the document is appropriate to the topic and allows the study to be duplicated for purposes of verification. The document relies on other sources that are listed in a bibliography or includes links to the documents themselves. The document names individuals and/or sources that provided non- published data used in the preparation of the study. The background information that was used can be verified for accuracy. ( Examples Apollo Moon Landing – no sources listed, where could you verify this? Christopher Columbus – information provided contradicts common knowledge, are sources listed?
  9. Examples Business Research Sources – clearly selling something – promoting an author – how to distinguish advertisements from info content? Are they one in the same? Small Business Research – government site It's important to understand a site's primary purpose (or "mission") as you consider its value for your project. Web sites can be categorized as: Advocacy or "soap box" sites Commercial sites Reference / Information sites See the chart below for more information about each type of site. Type Purpose Produced By Description & Examples Advocacy Sway opinion Organizations or individuals Advocacy sites (including blogs) may provide a wealth of information, but it's important to understand that these postings, articles, reports and policy papers are intended to promote a particular viewpoint or reflect one person's opinion. Usually opposing viewpoints on these issues are not represented. Advocacy sites are most useful for understanding different points of view. Example: Secondhand Smoke Commercial Promote or sell products and services Companies Commercial sites may provide short articles and other useful information to draw readers to their site. Commercial sites may also offer reviews of their own products. Will they be likely to tell both sides of the story, or should you look elsewhere for more balanced reviews? Example: Princeton Review Reference / Information Provide access to useful information and services Universities, government agencies, publishers, individuals Because these sites are not designed to promote a specific viewpoint or product, they are more likely to offer a full range of information on a topic. Example: Encyclopedia of Cleveland History Ask: What is the site's primary purpose: to inform or to promote an idea or product? Look for: Introductory material (such as an "About This Site" link) that describes the site's mission or goals. Membership applications, requests for contributions of money or time (usually found on advocacy sites). Follow a few links to see what kind of information is provided on the site. (