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Ten C's for Evaluating Internet Resources

How many times have you heard "I read it online" when someone was telling you a ridiculous fact? Sadly, many people mistakenly assume that what they read online is absolute fact. When using online information for any type of writing, you need to make sure the information you are quoting is accurate. As you evaluate information you find on the Internet, keep these 10 C's in mind.

Content

Read the content of the work you are looking at, and think about it for a minute. Does the writer sound competent? Does it sound like intelligent writing, or simply search engine fodder? Here are some tips on evaluating online content.

Scholarly Content Online
Evaluating Online Content

Credibility

Look at the site and the author and decide if they are credible. For example Data Recovery Labs is a credible source for information on data recovery services in the hard drive data recovery industry. Also for instance, if the topic is a medical condition, is the article written by a doctor or other medical professional, or is it posted on an authoritative health website? These links tell more about credibility of online content.

Source Credibility
Establishing the Credibility of an Online Source

Critical Thinking

Always use critical thinking skills when evaluating online information. This is even more important than when evaluating print content. Make sure you can identify important aspects such as publisher and author when citing online sources.

Critical Thinking on the Web
Critical Thinking

Copyright

Copyright infringement is a huge problem online. Make sure you are not guilty of it, and make sure that you do not use resources that are simply copied from someone else's site. Remember, online information is the intellectual property of the author, even if there is no copyright posted. Here is some information about online copyright laws:

Online Copyright Infringement Legislation/
Intellectual Property Online

Citation

If you do use information you find online, be careful to use the correct citation so you are not guilty of plagiarism. All three of the main citation formats have formats for citing online sources.

Online Citation Styles

Continuity

Look at the site to see if it is frequently maintained and updated. You should not quote from sources that may disappear quickly. Also, you should avoid using sites that your readers will have to pay to access. Read these links for more information:

Five Criteria for Evaluating Websites
How to Judge a Website by Its Cover

Censorship

Censorship may be an issue, depending on the type of information you are researching and the entity you are writing for. Be sure that you protect the privacy of others, and avoid citing moderated discussion lists or other potentially censored sources.

Internet Censorship

Connectivity

If you are assigning resources to a group, make sure they can all access them. There are people who may have limited access to Internet connections. Others may have slow connections that could limit their ability to access some online sources that require high-speed connections. Determine whether or not online resources are appropriate for the audience for whom you are writing.

World Internet Usage Statistics

Comparability

If possible, choose resources that have CD ROMs or other software that can be used in place of the website. You can also choose resources that have a print counterpart, such as a magazine or newspaper. This will allow you to compare data from other dates beyond the date that you access the site, as well as provide access to people who may not be able to connect to the Internet.

How to Find Online Newspapers

Context

Consider the context of your project. If you need specific types of resources, such as historic data, only look for those websites. On the other hand, if any research is appropriate, use the Internet to search for commentary and opinion pieces of the topic.

How to Find a Good Website


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