5. Evaluating Web sites
Activity 5a: Read the following
Once your search yields results of Internet resources that match your search terms, you will be able to access those resources by clicking on the links provided. When you finally "land" on a Web page, you can employ a few evaluation strategies to help ensure the Web site is a good one for you to use for your research. You should be looking for Web sites that a) answer the questions you've identified, and b) are reliable and credible sources.
Activity 5b: Think critically
Who can author a Web site?
The answer to this question is simple. Anyone can author a Web site. That is, anyone with the tools and know-how, can author a Web site. No one is looking at content accuracy for all the Web sites that are posted.
Click on the following Web sites. Explore each for a few minutes. While you're exploring, put yourself in the shoes of an elementary or middle school student and think about what he/she may "learn" from each one.
What is your reaction to these sites? How probable is it that a middle school student would "believe" what they read on these sites?
Activity 5c: Learn to evaluate
In addition to websites with inaccurate (sometimes absurd) information, a Web site may be inappropriate for Internet research for a variety of reasons. Consider the following:
- You're looking for information on cardinals (the bird) and wind up on a Web site for the Arizona Cardinals
- You're looking for information on the role of Cardinals in the Catholic church and wind up on a Web site about the bird, cardinal
- You're looking for information on the history of the NFL team, the Cardinals and wind up on a Web site selling AZ Cardinals merchandise
- You're looking for information on various AZ Cardinals team members and wind up on a blog entry about the AZ Cardinals cheerleaders' new uniforms
But once you conduct a search and land on a Web site that looks like it has the "right" information, it is critical to evaluate the source itself for reliability and appropriateness of the information presented.
To evaluate whether a Web site and its contents can be trusted, consider the following:
Who is the author/sponsor of the Web site?
What is the purpose of the Web site (to entertain, to persuade, to sell a product, to inform?)
Does the author/sponsor have a bias?
Is the author/sponsor an expert or authority on the content of the Web site?
Is contact information available?
What is the Web site? A journal article, a blog, an e-book, etc.?
What is the domain name?
Is the content presented on the Web site consistent with other information on the same topic?
When was the Web site developed?
Has it been revised recently?
Are there dead links?
How is the information presented?
Is the Web site generally well organized, polished and professional looking?
You may not be able to find answers to all of these questions for a Web site, but the more information you can find out, the better idea you will have about whether or not it is a reliable and appropriate source.
Search the home page, the "About" page, the "Contact Us" page, Web site footers and other pages from the domain that might help answer some of the questions.
Activity 5d: Review these resources
Presentation: This time, read slides 17-end
Google and Beyond slides
Activity 5e: Find the source
Even if a Web site does not give you information about the author or organization behind a Web page, you may be able to find out more about the domain registration. Use http://www.easywhois.com/ to enter a URL to see what additional information is available about the domain.
- Remember the Martin Luther King Jr. Web site from our scenario? Let's find out more about the site. Go to easywhois (link below) and enter "martinlutherking.org" into the search bar. NOTE: you must type in "martinlutherking.org" rather than copying and pasting it.
- Locate the registrant organization
- Do a Google search on the registrant organization to find out more about the organization
- Then locate section 5d on your student sheet and answer the questions related to the domain registration of the Web site.
Activity 5f: Practice evaluating a Web site
Let's consider our Martin Luther King Jr. example one more time. Let's suppose that after using specific search strategies, Sally lands on the following Web page: http://www.thekingcenter.org/about-dr-king
Evaluate this Web site for use in Sally's research on Martin Luther King Jr. Use the criteria and strategies you learned about it Activities 5c-5e. Then locate section 5f on your student sheet and a) fill in as much information as you can find about the Website, and b) summarize your evaluation of the Website overall.
Activity 5g: Think about it
Think about the graphic organizer introduced in Section 2. How does evaluating Internet resources impact a learner's need to refine and specify his/her search?
Let's pull all of this new information together. Go to section 6.