Evaluating Print Information Versus Online Information

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by Barbara J. Feldman on June 6, 2008

Evaluating information is important to make sure that the content you are reading is valid and from a true and reliable source. Evaluating information is easy to do, but it does depend on where you are getting the data from. If you are exploring information on the Internet, evaluating this information is different than evaluating data written in print. Here is how Internet information evaluating differs from print.

On the Internet

The Internet offers information and data from all over the world. Because so much information is available, and because that information can appear to be fairly anonymous, it is necessary to know how to evaluate what you find. There are no filters when it comes to posting material on the Internet. Anyone can write a Web page with documents that have a wide range of quality that are written by all kinds of authors. Excellent resources exist along side the most uncertain articles. Here are some criteria to how to evaluate information found on the Internet.

A problem in evaluating on the Internet is to get information on the content and authority, but in printed sources, this usually comes from the introductory notes. The lack of this kind of information on the Internet also affects evaluation based on the condition of purpose.

Here are some evaluations to use when looking at information on the Internet:

Is the information fact or opinion? Does the site contain original information? Does the resource stand alone, or has it been abstracted from another source?
Specific factors related to the content include the accuracy, authority, currency, and uniqueness of a resource. Is the information in the resource really accurate? A resource may be checked against other resources you read, or against information that the evaluator has.
Are there political, ideological, or other types of biases? The Internet has come to be a place where people market, advertise and just give their own opinions. What is the motivation that the author has for placing this information on the Interne? A lot of time the information is written to advertise, or to support a particular point of view.

In libraries

When you use a research or academic library, the books, journals and other resources have already been evaluated by scholars, publishers and librarians. Every resource you find has been evaluated in one way or another before you ever read it, which is very different than that of the Internet.

Criteria for print materials can usually be applied to the Internet site, but evaluation criteria may be more critical in the loose publishing environment of the Internet. Print publishing involves a series of editorial checks that tends to reduce the appearance of low-quality information. On the Internet, these checks exist to a lesser degree.

The development of resource guides is available for librarians in evaluating, selecting, and organizing published information. Many libraries now have specific Web sites that have lists of Internet information resources, but these sites don’t have explicit criteria.

With the growth of concern about the quality of Internet information, there are an increased number of publications in print and on the Internet that address the issue of criteria for evaluating Internet information.

Luckily, printed material has already been evaluated and proof read before the reader even sees the information. Unfortunately the Internet does not have such high criteria for evaluating information. Be careful when you are reading material on the Internet and make sure to evaluate the information to ensure it is true and is written by a reputable organization or an educated expert.


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Cite This Page

Feldman, Barbara. "Evaluating Print Information Versus Online Information." Surfnetkids. Feldman Publishing. 6 Jun. 2008. Web. 25 Apr. 2014. <http://www.surfnetkids.com/tech/1403/evaluating-print-information-versus-online-information/ >.