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The ABC's of Web Literacy
Transcript of The ABC's of Web Literacy
If you are going to use the web for research, don't be duped by what you find out there.
Learn five criteria for evaluation information on the web:
Analyze Web Pages for Authority
Authority: Good information is presented by some person or group who is a recognized authority
Determine the Accuracy of Information on the Web
Accuracy: It is important to determine the accuracy of information on the web.
Finding the Author's Credentials
Who is the author?
And by what authority does s/he speak?
Something to think about: Would you cite a book without knowing who is responsible for the information inside it? Why treat a web page differently?
Looking at the Publisher
Who is the publisher of the information?
Not only is it a signed article with the author's credentials appearing at the bottom of the page, but is also published in the world's most authoritative English-language encyclopedia.
Looking at Author, Publisher, & Server
What's the relationship between the author of the web page and the publisher/server?
This page was produced by an acclaimed author with 30 books to his name. But does this status make him an authority on the particular subject he's writing about?
Although the type of Internet domain can tell you something about the web--what kind of institution owns the server--it doesn't tell you much about the author of the page.
When there is no particular author.
Wikipedia entries are written by volunteers of all ages and backgrounds. It is extremely difficult to determine who is responsible for what information. However, Wikipedia is very useful: enormously extensive and largely reliable.
When you have good reason to trust a page but can't determine whether the author is an authority, a good rule of thumb is to always verify. Use Wikipedia entries as a jumping-off point to gain background information and learn about other sites--but always assume that the information may be incorrect.
Dealing with Discrepancies
Can you verify the background and/or factual information the author uses?
Looking at the Research Methodology
Is it original research? Is the methodology or the way the data was gathered clearly explained?
Take a look at the main web page for the Historical Census Data Browser.
Verifying the Web Page's Sources
Does the document rely on other sources that are footnoted and/or noted in a bibliography?
Sometimes this is more difficult than it seems. Example: Three different web pages all give a different author or source for the saying: "When all else [or everything] fails, read the instructions."
The best you could do in this case, is to keep looking or indicate in your own paper the discrepancy.
John F. Kennedy quotation from Bartleby.com:
Click on the "Further Resources" link at the bottom of the page. Here, you can see that the provider of this information clearly indicates the sources used and the methodology employed in providing online access to census data.
Analyze Web Page Bias
Bias: All information displays some bias. It is important to recognize that bias and take it into account when using that source as evidence.
Is "factual" information on the site documented with complete references?
Looking at Commercial Sites
Is the site trying to sell you a product, service, or idea, and only presenting favorable information that supports that goal?
Looking for Balance
Is the information balanced, giving a sense of the "many sides" to a story?
Look at co-opamerica.org: http://www.greenamerica.org/programs/sweatshops/whattoknow.cfm
There's a lot of interesting information, yet there are no formal citations indicating precise resources referenced.
Newspaper Articles: SHOULD show both sides of a story
Look for Current Data
Currency: For many types of data, currency, or the timeliness, and the regularity of updates is very important.
Checking Dates Covered
What dates are covered by the data?
Checking When Data Was Gathered
When was the data gathered?
Checking the Date of the Web Page
When was the document last updated?
One of the only things to alert you to the currency of this page would be the most recent year listed in the year column.
Determine the Level of Coverage
Coverage: Make sure the information is covered at the level you need.
Deciding What Coverage You Need
At what depth do you need the topic to be covered? Is this the right web page for you?
Analyzing the Author's Background
Does the author display a breadth of knowledge on the subject?
Looking for Authority, Accuracy, Bias, & Currency
Coverage is really the sum total of all the other criteria--Authority, Accuracy, Bias, and Currency.
Take a look at Dennis P. Culhane's web page. It's clear from looking at the "Recent Publications," "Courses/Seminars," and "Expertise" sections that Dr. O'Donnell displays a formidable breadth of knowledge concerning Social Policy. Not only has he written much of the material himself, but he links to other scholarly online resources and provides access to print resources.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains a large web site of current economic data.
It has very recent information and a link, "About the data" which informs you how often (when) it's updated.
All-Time Leaders for Home Runs in a single season, from baseball-almanac.com.
Generally: You will need more than one source
Please Follow Along with Guided Notes