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Evaluating the Internet: April 6th

Online Information Literacy Instruction for Dr. Mike Sell's Honors English Composition.

Explore the Public and Library’s Databases

Today we will look at how to use Google more effectively and efficiently as we explore beyond Basic Google searches and conduct Advance Google and Google Scholar searches.

When you do a search on the World Wide Web, your hit results can be anywhere from: 

  • silly sites
  • hoaxes
  • frivolous and serious personal pages 
  • commercials
  • reviews 
  • articles 
  • full-text documents 
  • academic courses 
  • scholarly papers 
  • reference sources
  • scientific reports

STEP 1:  SORTING IT ALL OUT

To figure out where a Web page is coming from, you need to know how to read a web address, orURL (Universal Resource Locator). 

http://www.iup.edu/library

 

Here's what it all means:

  • "http" is the transfer protocol (type of information being transferred)
  • "www" or archive is the host computer name (or server name)
  • "iup" (World News Network) is the third-level domain name
  • “iup” (Indiana University of PA) is the second-level domain name
  • "edu" is the top-level domain name which is stands for education
  • "library" is the directory name

Only a few top-level domains are currently recognized, but this is changing. Here is a list of the domains generally accepted by all:

  • .edu -- educational site (usually a university or college)
  • .com -- commercial business site
  • .gov -- U.S. governmental/non-military site
  • .mil -- U.S. military sites and agencies
  • .net -- networks, internet service providers, organizations
  • .org -- U.S. non-profit organizations and others

In mid November 2000, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted to accept an additional seven new suffixes, which are expected to be made available to users sometime in 2001:

  • .aero -- restricted use by air transportation industry
  • .biz -- general use by businesses
  • .coop -- restricted use by cooperatives
  • .info -- general use by both commercial and non-commercial sites
  • .museum -- restricted use by museums
  • .name -- general use by individuals
  • .pro -- restricted use by certified professionals and professional entities

NOTE: Because the Internet was created in this country, "US" was not originally assigned to U.S.domain names; however, it is used to designate state and local government hosts, including many public schools. Other countries have their own two letter codes as the final part of their domain names, e.g., .uk for United Kingdom; .ca for Canada; .fr for France, etc.

For a list of ISO Internet Country Codes, go to:
http://www.icann.org/registrars/accredited-list.html


STEP 2: DETERMINING PAGE AUTHORSHIP

You can tell a lot about the authenticity of a page by finding out all you can about its author/publisher.

Ask yourself this:

·         Who is responsible for the page you are accessing?__________________

·         Is it a governmental agency or other official source? _________________

·         A university? ________________________________________________

·         A business, corporation or other commercial interest? ________________

·         An individual? _______________________________________________
As a rule of thumb, you can generally rely on the GOV, MIL and EDU hostnames to present accurate information. The NET, ORG and COM are more uncertain and might require additional verification.


STEP 3: CHECKING THE VITAL INFORMATION

A reputable Web page will usually provide you with the following information:

  • Last date page updated____________________________________
  • Mail-to link for questions, comments _____________________________
  • Name___________________________________________________
    Address_________________________________________________
    Telephone number________________________________________
    Email address of page owner
     ___________________________________

Now ask yourself this:

 

If the page owner is not readily recognizable, does he provide you with credentials or some information on his sources or authority?_____________


STEP 4: CHECKING THE CONTENT

On the web, each individual can be his/her own publisher, and many are. Don't accept everything you read just because it's printed on a web page. Unlike scholarly books and journal articles, web sites are seldom reviewed or refereed. It's up to you to check for bias and to determine objectivity.

 

Who sponsors the page? (i.e. The Flat Earth Society? Hmmm …)____________

Who is linking to the page? __________________________________________

What links to other pages does the page itself maintain? _____________________

Look to see if the page owner tells you when the page was last updated._______ 
Is the information current?___________________________________________ 
Can it be verified at other, similar sites?________________________________

Try to distinguish between promotion, advertising, and serious content. This is getting to be more difficult, as an increasing number of pages must look to commercial support for their continuance.

Watch out for deliberate frauds and hoaxes. Some folks really enjoy playing games on the Web. Take a look at these two Web pages:

The White House
http://www.whitehouse.gov/

The White House
http://www.whitehouse.org/

Which one is the official White House site?__________________________

The third version of The White House is too explicit to make this example!!!!


STEP 5:  ASSESSING WEB PAGE STABILITY

There is no way to freeze a web page in time. Unlike the print world with its publication dates, editions, ISBN numbers, etc., web pages are fluid. There's no bibliographic control on the web. The page you cite today may be altered or revised tomorrow, or it might disappear completely. The page owner might or might not acknowledge the changes and, if he relocates the page, might or might not leave a forwarding address.

Try to assess the stability of the pages you reference. Again, one of the best ways to do this is to look closely at the page sponsor, last date updated, and the authority of the author(s).

When you are writing a paper and using web pages as source material, keep a backup of what you find on the web, (either as a printout or saved to disk) so that you can verify your sources later on if need be. 

Tip: Instead of going to Basic Google search first, go to Advanced Google or getter yet Google Scholar

 

Coordinator of Online Information Literacy Design Center (OILDC) and Distance Education Librarian

Chris Clouser's picture
Chris Clouser
Contact:
Stapleton Library 102B
724-357-5697