First-Year Preceptorial

Anu Jain's Internet Savvy Assignment

Internet Savvy

Adapted from The Sheridan Libraries of the Johns Hopkins University

© 1996 Elizabeth E. Kirk

The World Wide Web                        vs.                      Your Research/Academic Library (Schaffer)


Data from all over the world                                                                 Data from all over the world                                


Often anonymous or un-cited                                                                Provides documentation for all information


No guarantee of filters                                                                           Information has been evaluated by       

before information is posted                                                                  scholars, publishers, and librarians                        


The quality of documents varies widely                                                Uniformly high quality resources

How can you evaluate the information found on a particular website beyond the library domain?

1.          Determine AUTHORSHIP:  Who wrote this?  What authority does s/he have?  Is this a well-known and well-regarded author in a field you know?  If not, can you find verifiable information validating the author’s expertise?

2.          Consider the CONTEXT:  Is the name of any organization given on the document you are reading?  Do you recognize the organization?  Is this part of an official academic or scholarly site?  Is the information timely or does it need updating?  Can you contact the site Webmaster from this document?  If this is an individual’s personal webpage, all information should be approached with extreme caution.

3.          Identify potential BIAS:  Information is rarely neutral.  Because data is used in selective ways to form information, it generally represents a point of view.  The popularity of the Internet makes it the perfect venue for highly "interpretative" uses of data.  What affiliations does the author have that reveal a clear stake in the issues at hand?  Remember that corporations use the internet for advertising, not merely for impartial sharing of information, and that allegedly “educational” sites can still be misleading.  If it is a controversial issue, try to find out how well respected the author is by others with similar views.

4.          Weigh the EVIDENCE:  Is there a bibliography that allows you to verify the information independently?  If not, is there another way to determine the author’s knowledge of the subject area and awareness of relevant debates?  Is there a clear process allowing you to evaluate the accuracy of the information?  

The Bottom Line to Internet Savvy: