While it's true that the Internet provides access to a wealth of information, it's important to determine whether or not that information is suitable for academic research. Most print publications undergo some kind of screening process and are subject to editorial oversight and fact checking, all of which lend a certain amount of credibility to their content. On the other hand, anyone with a computer and a connection can "publish" a website. So before you use any information you've found on the Web, take a look at the criteria below and see if it measures up.
- What are the author's credentials (academic degrees, background, experience) or affiliations (university, government agency, advocacy group, private business)?
- Who sponsors the website? Does this person, group or agency have a good reputation? Is there contact information, such as a phone number or street address?
- Check the URL. Is this a personal site? Government site? Education site? (Hint: Information from .gov, .org and .edu sites is usually considered more authoritative.
- Is the information on the website consistent with what you have found in other sources?
- Is there a bibliography?
- Does the author cite sources within the text?
- Is the author's point of view objective and impartial?
- What are the perspectives, assumptions, and biases of the person or organization responsible for the information?
- What is the purpose of the website? To entertain? To inform? To persuade you to agree with a certain point of view or to sell you something? How might this purpose affect the author's objectivity?