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|Critical Evaluation of Internet Websites|
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Finding information is only part of the process in scholarly research. The old adage, "Don't believe everything you read" holds true in every form of publication. Just because something is in print does not necessarily mean it's true and accurate. This idea takes on a whole new meaning when applied to the World Wide Web. With a little technical know-how, virtually anyone can put up a Web page.
Printed sources from books or journals usually have methods to protect against false or slanderous information slipping through the cracks. Editorial or review processes tend to keep authors honest and accurate. Larger publishing firms have a vested interest in making sure what they print is correct and above reproach lest their paying audience lose faith and take their money elsewhere. There are always exceptions, such as "sensational" novels or supermarket tabloids, but by and large the publishing industry does a fairly good job of regulating itself. Even so, caution should be exercised when evaluating information from printed sources.
Web pages, as already alluded to, generally have no review process. Hate
pages, fantasy, and commercial ventures abound on the Internet with no
regulation. For this reason, Web pages need special attention when assessing
their content. The steps involved in critically evaluating material can and
should be applied to all mediums including books and journal articles, but the
list given here is geared more toward evaluation of Web pages. If several of the
major points from this list cannot be answered to your satisfaction, or cannot
be answered at all, you may want to keep looking for other pages.
*Sometimes it is difficult to ascertain the date of creation of the website. Here is one suggestion to use if the date is not evident on the pages you are viewing. In Netscape, go to the VIEW option from the toolbar. Select Page Source. (In Explorer it is VIEW/Source). This will bring up a screen that looks like computer-eze, but it is the language used to create the page you are viewing. There should be a date and perhaps even the author on that page. If it isnít, then you should really question the validity of that page and whether it should be used as a research source.