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Evaluating Internet Sources

This presentation will provide useful tips on evaluating internet sources for inclusion in a college research paper.
by

Amanda Warren

on 28 May 2016

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Transcript of Evaluating Internet Sources

Helpful Hints and Techniques for Locating Good Sources on the Internet
EVALUATING WEB SOURCES
THE TRUTH ABOUT INTERNET RESEARCH:
SOME OF IT SUCKS!
If we travel back in the way-back machine, there were a limited number of useful sources of information available on the web…most of that information came from individuals who were perhaps very good at programming, but who were NOT experts in other fields. At that point, around 15 years ago, researchers had to be very skeptical of using internet sources for research materials…not a lot of that information was useful for scholarly or academic pursuits.

Now, there is a remarkable amount of good information available on the internet through libraries, databases, professional sites, universities, archives, government sites, organizations and even personal pages. That information still requires a healthy dose of skepticism and careful evaluation, though. Unlike library databases, scholarly or popular print journals, or our old favorites…books, there is no editor on the internet, and no group of experts evaluating information on our behalf.

Because of the nature of the internet as a multi-vocal, widely accessible and sometimes questionable collection of images, sounds, texts and ideas, it is crucial that researchers use their critical skills to evaluate websites for things like: accuracy, authority (or credibility), objectivity (or bias), relevancy (of time, place or situation), integrity and general appropriateness of use for scholarly research.
This presentation will try to provide you with a few things to remember when considering web sources for your college-level research.
Lots of information
Easy to access
Great sites
Multi-media
Fantastic search-engines
Anyone can add their thoughts,
ideas, opinions and publish them
for a world-wide audience
RESEARCH ON THE INTERNET-PROS
Anyone can add their thoughts, ideas, opinions and publish them for a world-wide audience
No editor
No standards for information
Motives/Politics/Agendas can be hidden
Researchers must be able to evaluate sources for themselves
Caveat Lector “Reader Beware!”
RESEARCH ON THE INTERNET-CONS
www.google.com (popularity ranking)
http://search.yahoo.com (relevancy ranking)
www.ask.com (popularity ranking)
http://www.bing.com/ (popularity ranking)

These are general search engines, which means they scour EVERYTHING on the internet—useful or not. They usually rank their results not by relevancy (how related to your topic or how useful the source is) but by popularity (number of times accessed, linked, shared, referenced).

They are useful, but they don’t EVALUATE sources to let researchers know what information is valuable, useful, or even factual.
SEARCH ENGINES
There are some specialized search engines which could help you avoid having to evaluate sites as
thoroughly,
because they LIMIT the kinds of materials presented.
http://www.academicinfo.net/subject-guides (Academic Info provides subject guides to popular topics.)
https://www.base-search.net/ (Searches open access academic information online)
http://www.virtuallrc.com/ (Sources selected by librarians and teachers)
http://www.archives.gov/research/ (Online archival research and documents from the US government holdings)
http://www.about.com (About.com-you always know who wrote what, and can check their credentials by clicking on the author’s name)
http://scholar.google.com (Google Scholar—searches databases worldwide)

You still need to EVALUATE your results though. It is your responsibility as a researcher to look for the best information possible.
EVALUATED SEARCH ENGINES
Search Engines access the internet (the whole thing)
Databases access collections of articles (like a digital library)

Search Engines are free to use and are funded by advertising

Databases are often free to use and are often funded by Colleges, Universities, Libraries or Organizations
Our university library purchases access to numerous databases on our behalf, so that we might have free access more scholarly information we might otherwise be charged for.

YAY! Libraries!
SEARCH ENGINES ARE NOT DATABASES
A database is different than a website.
Databases contain collections of articles, or materials usually available in print elsewhere.
Those collections are usually compiled by universities, organizations, libraries, institutions, societies, agencies, journals, newspapers or even the government.
Most of the information available in databases has passed through either editors, publishers or reviewers at some point—it has been evaluated for you, but you still want to be a bit skeptical.
Not all databases are full text, they may, like many of our library’s databases, include both full text access, or just citations for texts.
We gain access to these databases when we log in to the library.
When I talk about evaluating
web sources
, I’m not talking about
databases
. They are different things.
We still need to be aware of "peer reviewed" designations. There are articles and items in library databases that are not peer reviewed. (Like book reviews, and newspaper articles)
WHAT IS A “DATABASE?”
A website is a collection of information posted by groups, companies, or individuals.
No one has to have credentials to post something on a website or webpage. As long as a person has the means to post it no one is stopping them.
Websites are often multi-media, and can include photos, videos, or they can include interactive elements like hyperlinks, comments or sharing features.
Webpages are individual posts, articles, entries on websites. Think about episodes of a show, chapters of a book, songs on a cd…those are like webpages on a website. (A smaller part of a bigger thing).
Technically,
Facebook
is a website, and your wall is a webpage.
Wikipedia
is a website, and the individual entries are webpages.
WHAT IS A “WEBSITE?”
Things we want to consider before using a specific website as a source for our scholarly research:
Authority
Accuracy
Objectivity
Integrity
Relevancy
General Appropriateness
EVALUATING WEBSITES
Who wrote it?
What are their credentials?
Who is responsible for the information on the page?
Can you contact them?
( is there an“About Us,” “Biography,” “Background,” “Philosophy,” or “Contact us” with information about the person who is providing the information?)
Google them!
No name? Proceed with extreme caution!
AUTHORITY
Can information be verified by other sources?
Is the site itself providing primary sources? (documentation, citations, links, etc.) Are those references real?
What is the purpose of the site?
How is the grammar or spelling? This can be a big hint as to the quality of the information being presented…We can even take into account what a site looks like. (Rainbows and unicorns? Those might be a bad sign!)
Is this page out of date?
ACCURACY
Does this site have a bias?
Is it trying to sell you something?
Is this a rant?
(Think about the tone and point of view of a page.)
Is an issue presented in a neutral way?
Or are there multiple perspectives?
Is it fact, or is it opinion? (Both are useful things, but we need to know which is which).
OBJECTIVITY
Has any important information been left out?
Does the author seem reliable?
Is the site satirical?
(Do not confuse
The Daily Show
with real news.)
Are resources up to date?
Is the page up to date?
Is the information here plagiarized from another source?
INTEGRITY

Does the information on this page seem appropriate for academic use?
Is the information current?
Is it useful for your rhetorical situation (your purpose, audience and message)?

I can imagine a situation in which even
wikipedia
would be a relevant and appropriate source.
RELEVANCY
AND APPROPRIATENESS
Say we’re writing a paper on
Global Warming…

Go, GOOGLE, GO!
LET’S TRY IT!
I found about 47,500,000 results
In 0.28 seconds! 
Remember the things we need to consider.
You can determine some things about sites, even before looking at the site itself.

Things to look for:
URLs- What do they tell us? (gov, org, edu, mil)
-Is it a personal page? (don’t discount it, but be skeptical!)
-Do you recognize the domain/name?
NOW WHAT?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming
http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/
http://www.care2.com/click-to-donate/global-warming/
http://amos37.com/2010/10/02/what-about-global-warming/
http://www.pagosadailypost.com/news/24115/OPINION:_Flaws_in_the_Climate_Change_Arguments/
LET’S TRY IT! CLICK TWO OF THESE SITES AND DECIDE IF THEY ARE APPROPRIATE.
You must decide if this source is the best source available for your research.


Think critically!
PUT IT ALL TOGETHER
Pick a link, and scan that page:

P.A.T.S.
THEN WHAT?
My sources are (in correct MLA format):

Barker, Joe. “Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply and Questions to Ask.” Teaching Library Internet Workshops. UC Berkeley Libraries. 13 July 2008. Web. 20 Oct 2008.

“Evaluating Websites” Research Guides. USC Aiken Gregg Graniteville Library. 14 Nov 2005. Web. 20 Oct 2008.

Kirk, Elizabeth E. “Evaluating Information found on the Internet.” The Sheridan Libraries: Research Help. Johns Hopkins University. 1996. Web. 20 Oct 2008.
FOR MORE DETAILED INFORMATION
Dr. Amanda Warren,
University of South Carolina Aiken
P.A.T.S.

One easy acronym for remembering evaluation is P.A.T.S. These initials stand for Purpose, Authority, Timeliness and Scope.
Purpose
Authority
Timeliness
Scope
Why was this source created?
What audience was it created for?
Is it scholarly or popular? Does this matter?
Who is the author? A person? A corporation?
What are the author's qualifications for writing on this subject?
Is there a date?
When was the content last updated?
Does it give too much or too little information?
How specific is the information provided?
For Even More Help:
Ask a research professional.

There are professional researchers standing by to help you...we call them librarians.
That list is a lot of stuff to remember, so I'm going to use something easy to remember, so that we can at least narrow things down initially.

We have some options here as well: The P.A.T.S test, the C.R.A.P test, and the Stoplight Test, can all help us remember what to look for in online sources.
Pick a link, and scan that page:

C.R.A.P
C.R.A.P.
Another easy to remember acronym is C.R.A.P This stands for Currency, Reliability/Relevance, Authority, and Purpose
Currency
Reliability/Relevance
Is the information recent enough for your topic?
• Has it been published in the last x years? (x will vary, depending on your topic)
• If you have a historical research topic, was it published around the date of the original event?

Where does the information come from, and does the information apply to your topic?
• Is it a primary or secondary source?
• Are methods or references provided?
• Who published the information?
• Was it peer-reviewed?
• Does all of the information apply to your topic, or only part of it?
• Is the information general or detailed?
• Is the information balanced or biased?

Authority
Purpose/Point-of-View
Who authored this information?
• Was it a single person or several people?
• Was it a corporation or organization?
• Are their credentials provided?
• What is their reputation or expertise?

What was the intent of the author, and how is the author connected to the information?
• Who is the intended audience?
• Is the information intended to inform, persuade, sell, entertain, …?
• Is this a first-hand account of an event or research?
• Does the author have a vested interest in the topic?

Pick a Link, and Scan that Page
Stoplight Test
STOPLIGHT TEST
The Stoplight test gives us general guidelines on when to stop and consider, when to be cautious about our choices, and when to go ahead an use a source.
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