Researching and Critiquing Internet Resources

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Researching and Critiquing Internet Resources

It is important to know the difference between reliable and unreliable information transmitted by all means of information sharing. Because anyone, in theory, can publish on the Web, it is imperative for us to develop a critical eye to evaluate the credibility of information transmitted via the Internet.

The goals of this assignment are to help you:

• become knowledgeable about doing research on the Internet
• develop your critical thinking skills and back up your conclusions with evidence.
• create clear concise text (using the necessary editing and layout skills).

You can select one Web site and give an overview of various components. If your site is not very extensive you can critique the whole site. If the site you choose has a significant amount of information, you can pick representative samplings of information to deal with in detail and give a general overview of what is covered.

Use the following guidelines to assist with your critique

1. When you analyze the sites and form opinions, backup your opinions with supporting evidence to support your points. You have flexibility in format and style, as long as your report is clear, concise, and well organized.
2. Give the URL (http:// address) of the site, and a brief overview of its content.

3. What are the major categories of information covered on the site?

4. Who are the audiences for this site? What clues define the audiences? Provide evidence such as language, accessible to the general public.

5. Are there hypertext links on that “page”? How do the various links relate to the main theme? Are the links consistent with the main theme, or does the site have personal links? Is it a collection of various personal interests of an individual?

6. What kinds of graphics are on the sites? How do they relate to the topics? Are the graphics designed to grab your attention? Do they make the site easier to use, or help explain concepts? Do the graphics support text information or do they stand alone? Do they overuse graphics to the point of distraction? Who are the various audiences for these graphics? What are your clues?

7. What clues do you have about the credibility of the sites and information? You may not be familiar with the institutions, organizations, or individuals who sponsor or who contributed information to the sites. Can you also find text material by these authors or institutions in the library? From what institutions or organizations do the sites originate? Any group can give itself an official sounding name or logo.

8. Does the site have built in bias? For example is the Web page an advertisement for a product or service? Does it have a particular political or social agenda? Having an agenda or selling a product on the Web is not necessarily “bad,” but is the sponsor “sneaky” about its alliances or “up front”?

9. Make some general observations about what you learned about the subject you chose to investigate from exploring this site. What general observations can you make about the usefulness and value of the information you found on the Internet? What did you learn about the importance of critiquing sources.

10. On what kind of Web site does the information appear?
Some types of Web sites:

• Personal Home Pages – Web sites which are maintained by individuals. They are often informal. Individuals can post their resumes, link to favorite sites, and showcase their interests and ideas. Some personal Web sites also serve as professional sites. For example, many professors publish their syllabi and other course material on their own Web pages.

• Special interest sites – maintained by non-profit organizations or activists dealing with special issues, such as environmental concerns, legalization of marijuana, etc. They can be relatively mainstream or radical in interests and vary widely in credibility of information.

• Information sites – which include research, reference sources, and fact sheets. Many institutions provide such services to the public. The credibility of the institution providing the facts gives clues as to the reliability of the in formation. Is the material documented?

• News and journalistic sites – which include national, international news, online newspapers, magazines. Anyone can publish his or her own “news,” on the Web. As in print – just because it is published does not necessarily mean it is true. If a periodical article has an ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) it will probably have more authority. Web serials that do not have ISSN numbers are probably created by entrepreneurs and less authority than other publications

• Commercial sites – Although many legitimate businesses have Web sites; some are not legitimate. Companies are in the business of making money and acquiring and keeping customers. They are naturally biased in favor of their own products, so watch out for inflated claims for performance and quality. Companies will not showcase their competitors’ products. If you are, for example, comparing products, get impartial reviews, not company information. Many entrepreneurs use “rented” Web space e to create their own Web sites to sell their services or products – buyer beware ! Can you track the reputation of the company?

No category of Web site is “better” than another. They serve different purposes. There are reliable and unreliable Web sites in all categories of Web sites. Below are some extensions on Web addresses, which give clues as to where the Web server/site resides:

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