When we were students we learned to write content-filled essays and reports. Our teachers taught us to introduce the important facts, facts we discovered using quality reference materials. With today’s websites a student follows the same rules, but reliability is a significant issue. While it is easy to find sites with information about a topic, identifying reliable and significant information is more of a challenge. The trick is to identify information that indicates whether or not a site is a reliable resource. Do not let your child use a site as a resource unless it is possible to determine its quality.
Many websites look both real and reliable, but they are bogus. A fun website to explore is at based at the Western Australia Province Department of Education. It features bogus websites designed to look accurate and authoritative. Except that they are not accurate or authoritative. Take a few minutes to explore. Better yet, explore them with your children.
Evaluate the Web Sites that You Use
Be sure you use sites with accurate and reliable information. If you have a research project or your child has a homework assignment plan to evaluate each website to ensure its quality. Also please read the following tips describing how to evaluate web-based information.
Ten Tips to Ensure that the Information is Useful and Accurate
I’ve used these tips again and again with students and adults. Interestingly, even in the fast-paced virtual world, these tips never seem to age.
- Who made the site? Is it from a university or other institution? Is it for-profit or non-profit. Corporate? Look for a link that tells about the site.
- When was the site made and how often is the site updated? Somewhere on the site, usually at the bottom of each page it should tell. Can you tell how often the site updates material? If not check out another website on your topic.
- Is it possible to contact the webmaster or the sponsor of the site? Is there a “contact us” link somewhere on the page?
- How much advertising is on the page, and how aggressive is it? Good sites that have advertising are careful to keep it from being “in your face.”
- Does the site state its mission? Try to find out who built the site and why. Who runs the site?
- Does the site give biographical information about content authors? In today’s world anyone can write anything about a topic. Are the writers qualified explain content on the subject?
- How much of the site has significant content and how much focuses on opinion? If you are searching for facts, you want to avoid sites that focus on opinions.
- Can you look at a similar site and confirm the information? Too many people state their opinions as fact. If you have any doubt, check a second site.
- Does the site have references or footnotes? Are there some attribution methods to demonstrate where the information came from? Are there links connecting web sites with other good sites?
- Is the site easy to use? Navigating is easy on good websites. Can you navigate and get to the information you are seeking with just a few clicks? Can you return to the first page easily?