Tips for Evaluating Online Info Accuracy

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by Barbara J. Feldman on June 5, 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 and there are some key tips to use when doing so. If you are exploring information on the Internet, evaluating this information is different than evaluating data written in print. Here are some evaluating information tips that will come in handy when you need to evaluate the information you are reading.

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. Most of the information on the Internet is not reviewed or “filtered.” Unlike books, magazines, and videos that pass through an editor, the content of a web page does not have to be approved by anyone before it is made public. Anyone can say anything on the Internet and it’s not always true. Unfortunately, many people often believe that if it’s on the Internet, then it must be true. So how do you know if something is true on the Internet? Here are some evaluating tips:

Who is the author or who has authority?

•Is the author clearly identified? Is there information that is included about the author?
•Is the author associated with a known organization or company?
•Is it an author that has educational qualifications, a journalist, or somebody else?
•Has the author ever been published in print of some sort, like a book, magazine, or article?
•Is there any way to contact the author for questions or concerns?

What company published the information?

•Was it published from an academic institution for academic purposes?
•Is it from a news organization written for a wider audience?
•Has it been produced by an industry, commercial organization or other
resource?
•Is it a personal document that only contains the individual’s opinion?

When was the material published?

•When was the file last updated?
•Is the information still valid today?
•Information on the Internet is usually more up to date than actual printed publications in books and magazines. The Internet is usually the best place for most up to date information.

Why was the material published?

•Does it contain extremely valuable research?
•Does it show new research that is beneficial?
•Is it trying to persuade the reader to have a certain viewpoint?
•Can you see any bias in it?
•Was it written strictly for advertisement purposes?

How usable is the information?

•Does the site allow people to easily find, read, and use the information?
•Is the site organized in a logical manner to help with the location of the information?
•Does the site have a table of contents that is easy to access?
•Are the pages designed orderly?
•Is the navigation consistent throughout the website?
•Are the links accurate and are they clearly explained?

How accurate is the information?

•Is the information dependable?
•Are the sources of the information stated?
•Is the author supplying real, reliable information or is he or she trying to sell his ideas or opinions to others?

Some of the same evaluating tips can be used with printed material, but 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.

Make sure when looking at information on the Internet that you evaluate it and make sure it is viable information. Following these evaluating information tips is a great way to ensure you are getting truthful and valuable information. There is a lot of dishonest people and websites out there, so make sure you do your homework before taking anyone’s word. Luckily, printed material has already been evaluated and proof read before the reader even sees the information. For the most part, printed material is a great source for reliable information. Take time to evaluate everything you read and make sure it is true and is written by a reputable organization or an educated expert.


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Cite This Page

Feldman, Barbara. "Tips for Evaluating Online Info Accuracy." Surfnetkids. Feldman Publishing. 5 Jun. 2008. Web. 23 Apr. 2014. <http://www.surfnetkids.com/tech/445/tips-for-evaluating-online-info-accuracy/ >.