Evaluating Website Information and Content


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On: January 3, 2013

Authorship

The Internet has opened the door for many people to publish their work and there are probably a million authors out there, enthusiastically putting out some content for the whole world to see, right now. How do you distinguish the credibility of the author? Some authors use their real names but there are also authors who use a pseudonym. In the case where the author is well-known in a particular field, it will be fairly easy to find information on the person. Check the author’s expertise on the subject and qualifications.

Publishing Body

In evaluating the content and information on a website, it’s important to know as much as much as possible about the publishing body. When you are reading the document, you should look for the name of the publishing body. It may be found in a distinctive watermark, headers or footers. Is the publishing body a recognized authority on the subject? Can you find the Webmaster’s contact information? In most cases, you can access information about the server’s identity by using some Internet programs such as whois or dnslookup.

Point of View or Bias

A lot of the content on the Internet is biased in one way or another. In fact, it’s quite hard to find any information that is completely neutral on the Internet. If the website is trying to sell something, the statistics and supporting data may be specially selected to solidify the presentation. It’s helpful to understand the point of view of the article in order to determine if the information is trustworthy. One of the best ways to do this is to take a look at the URL of the document. What is the agenda of the organization where the document is published?

Referral to Other Sources

Another indicator of the authenticity of the document is author’s referral to other sources. Proper referral to other sources shows the author’s knowledge about a particular discipline as well as its practices. For all types of information, you should ask the following questions. Is a bibliography included in the article? Does the author attribute the related sources of the information found in the document in a proper manner? In the treatment of the subject, you should consider the suitability of author’s knowledge of techniques or theories. Does the author acknowledge the fact that his or her new theory is limited or controversial?

Verifiability

When you are reading an article, it’s essential that you are able to verify the details. In the case where the author or the organization is unfamiliar or the information is presented in an unfamiliar manner, the need for verifiability is heightened. If you are reading a research paper, you should look for an explanation about the methods of research used to collect and interpret the data. Is the methodology suitable for the topic? Can it be duplicated for the verification of details? Is the referral of sources done properly and professionally?

Currency

Sometimes, you may come across a very well-written and well-researched article, only to find out that the information is outdated. The timeliness of the content is known as currency. In many printed materials, you can look for the date of publication to determine if the information is current. Some works like Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine or the Bible should not be subjected to the currency test because the question of timeliness is not relevant. For documents where the currency of the information is important, here are some tips to help you along. Does the document state the date at which the data is collected? Is there a date of copyright on the document? When was the document “last updated”?

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