The Internet is a vast marketplace full of information, both good and bad. How do you know if the web page information you are obtaining is valid? Here are a few tips to help you evaluate web pages:
Start with the URL- This is an easy way to evaluate web page information. Here are the definitions to the following URLs:
.edu — This indicates the information you are reading is from a higher education college or university.
.org — This identifies a non-profit organization.
.gov — This indicates that the information is coming from a government agency or organization.
.int — This information will be from an intergovernmental organization such as “NATO”.
.com — Of course this is the most widely used of all the URLs. A .com address indicates the information is coming from a commercial organization.
.mil — This information will be coming from a military organization.
.net — Network providers such as Verizon Wireless use .net addresses.
.info — This indicates the web site is a general information site.
That will give you a better understanding as to what type of information you can expect to see on a particular web site. You do need to be aware that many people have found ways around using the specified URLs and they can use certain sites for personal gain. Many universities have found that students use domains attached to the school to create opinion pages. If you have any doubt about the information you are reading, you should look for a contact person (either by phone or e-mail) and quality control (typically the information will have reviews by other editors.)
Currency — Another thing to remember is that anyone can publish on the Internet. There is not a company or team who screen the information before it is sent to the Internet for anyone to read. Of course the Internet has a huge advantage over the currency of information compared to traditional information resources. The technology of the Internet allows for updates to be posted in seconds, rather than in days. Check the web page information for the date of information, publication date, and the date of the last revision. Some web pages may have out-dated material or you may be on a web page that the information source thought was extinct or cancelled from being a “live” page. Another indicator that the web page information is valid is the links. Does the page link to outside sources that are extinct?
Usability — This is another great way to evaluate web page information. Here are some tips that will help you determine if the web page is providing information efficiently:
•Is the page user friendly? Can you find your information easily and quickly?
•How organized is the web page? Do you have to click on more than 6 pages to find the information you are looking for?
•Does the web site have a table of contents page? This will be the easiest way to navigate topics to find your area of information.
•How cluttered is the site? This goes along with the organization of a web page. Are the pages clean and easy-to-read or do they overwhelm you with too much information?
•What is the consistency of the web site? For example, look at the navigation buttons? Do they change on each page or do they maintain a consistent flow?
•Accurate and clear links are another indicator that the web site information is valid. A good web host will check their links often to ensure they are working.
•Does the web page link to other sources? This is another important way to determine if the web page is valid. The sources the web page links to should be valid and relevant to the topic.
Hopefully this information will help you determine if the information you are evaluating is valid to your topic. Remember the Internet can be very useful, or very useless for the same topic! Just make sure you follow the above tips and you will be on the path to finding the right information.