Information posted on the Internet is NOT checked for accuracy. Incorrect, outdated, and misleading information does appear on the Internet. Each searcher must use his/her own judgment to evaluate the validity of information found.
Questions to ask
Who posted this information?
- Is it posted by a company? a government agency? an advocacy group? an individual?
- Places to look for information about the creator are the name of the page, the last line of the page, a hypertext subfile labeled "read about me", and the Internet address (URL).
- You can also try a "who is" search. With a "who is" search, you can type in an Internet address and look up the name and mailing address of the person or company this address is registered to.
- Two web pages that provide "who is" searches are AllWhoIs
and Network Solutions Who Is.
- If it is not clear who posted this information, it must be considered to be an anonymous source.Do you really want to use anonymous information?
What biases may this person or organization have?
- For example, both Hanford and the Sierra Club have information on nuclear waste, but they may approach the topic from different angles.
- One way to check the bias of a web page is to find out who liked the site enough to create a link off of their own home page. To find who has made a link to a particular web page, use the link search in Google. Go to Google and enter link [URL].
When was it last updated?
- Is this information given on the page?
- Is it important that this information be as current as possible? Or is it acceptable that this information is a few months or a few years old?
- Check the hypertext links. Are they all valid, or do many lead to dead ends? A great number of dead links may indicate a poorly maintained site. Poorly maintained sites might not have the most current information.
Why did they post this site?
- Why are they giving this information away for free? It costs money to maintain a web site. Are they a school, with a mission to educate people? Are they a governmental organization, required by law to give out the information? Did they post this site to advertise a product? To entertain? To promote a cause or particular point of view? To collect marketing information? Can you tell?
- Do you have to register personal information to get into this site? If so, what will your personal information be used for? If you are paying for this information, or you are putting yourself on a mailing list, is the information you receive worth the trade-off?
- Check where the hypertext link leads to. Do they primarily lead to sites advertising products and services, or do they lead to other informative sites? Do all the linked sites represent a particular point of view?
- Do you have to click on an advertising frame to acknowledge an ad before you can do anything on that site?
- Does your computer lock on that site and keep dragging you back, even when you try to do other searches?
How accurate is the information?
- What expertise does this person or organization have in this subject area? Is this person or organization a primary source—someone who would have first-hand knowledge of this topic? Or are they a secondary source—someone who would have consulted other resources to gather this information?
- If they are a secondary source, do they say where they found this information? If statistics are listed, who gathered them?
- Are opinions presented as fact?
- Is the author of the site trying to motivate readers to take action? Some activist sites encourage readers' to react emotionally and become motivated to join their cause. Information on these sites may be exaggerated or over-dramatized.
- If the purpose of this site is to sell a product, check the content carefully. Does the site's information seem biased towards the advertiser or the advertiser's products? If so, how much can you really trust this information?
- Are there spelling or punctuation errors? If there are such errors, what other mistakes might there be in this site?
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