How to assess the validity of online information
Starting with an answer on question “Why to evaluate?” this document explains techniques and methods of evaluation of online information through two similar approaches. It does not compare and it does not suggest better way of evaluation either. However, it raises the importance of evaluation but it is up to the reader himself/herself what will do with information covered here.
The World Wide Web provides information from all around the world. There is extremely wide variety of material, different in its reliability, accuracy and value. No one has to approve the content before publishing like in more traditional form (books or magazines) and everyone can publish. Internet by its nature was designed to provide unrestricted information. There are no rules or standards as far as quality of information which writer can put on the internet are concerned. This information can be found in a large variety of kinds and was created for different purposes. Each of these different kinds and purposes has various levels of quality, credibility and reliability.
Purpose of this report is to discuss how to assess validity of online information and most appropriate methods of evaluation.
1. Why to evaluate online information
The nature of the web itself and the fact that anyone can publish or even change content of some websites means that excellent resources reside along the most dubious and these are the reasons why there is a need for evaluation. The main reasons why to evaluate can be categorized as follows:
Lack of guidelines
- there are no rules and standards setting the quality of the information
Lack of monitoring
- web sites are not subject of any critical evaluation, reviewing mechanism or any type of monitoring before they become part of the World Wide Web Lack of representation
- the diversity of the world is simply not reflected on the internet. One must evaluates information in order to determine whether limited viewpoints presented on the internet are completely accurate.
- it is essential to evaluate information on the web and determine whether the web site is biased. There are two main issues directly related to bias and objectivity: Propaganda: is a widespread promotion of particular idea
Commercialism: in recent years internet has become a place for commercial activities
These very briefly described factors are the main reasons for evaluation and assessment of online information. There is much more to be mentioned but unfortunately scope of this document does not allow going further.
2. Methods of evaluation
Due to the factors mentioned above there must be a strategies how to evaluate information found on the internet. There are variety of methods and criteria to consider, form informal to the more educational techniques. There is no one perfect method of evaluating information, rather “you must make an inference from a collection of clues or indicators, based on the use you plan to make of your source.” (Harris, R.) Although all of them are very similar, there are two main approaches: 1. Criteria or indicators of credibility
2. CARS Checklist
2.1. Criteria credibility
Criteria credibility similar to those by which scholars evaluate print information can be used to assess information found on the internet. Things to be considered are:
This is a major factor in considering the accuracy and credibility of information found. Evaluating credentials of an author involves analyzing the educational background, expertise and past writing. Following questions should by ask: Who wrote this?
Are there author’s contact details?
Has the content been reviewed, critiqued or verified in any way? Is the...
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