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Research Tutorial: Internet Research

Internet Research

Video Transcript


You’ve come a long way to becoming a great researcher. Now it’s time to consider why internet research may not be the best tool for your research needs.  You know that you can Google anything and get answers.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that Information Has Structure. It’s organized in a way that allows a user to find and locate information based on a set of parameters. These parameters or characteristics define how a search engine retrieves information based on its underlying architecture.  Think of a house, it has walls, windows, doors, etc.   This architecture forms the structure of your home and allows you to move about in it based on that framework. Similarly, the internet has been organized, defined, structured, and indexed so that search engines mine that data to answer questions.

Moreover; its structure can be formal with controlled vocabularies, thesaurus or dictionaries to define how information is related. Or, organized in a more informal manner with tags, hashtags, likes or dislikes. When you do a Google search, its page ranking algorithm, monetized by Google Ad words, returns websites to the first page of results for those who have paid the most money to Google. Does that mean it’s credible?  Remember Google is a business of over $90 million in revenue. Other search engines have similar financial models driving the search function. There is so much information on the internet, it’s really important to be able to critically evaluate information.

Now let’s take a look at Evaluating Online Information.  We’re going to talk about this in the context of websites but you can use this to evaluate online documents or online news articles. We’ve briefly discussed this before but now we are going to look more deeply and critically at it.

Websites have different domain names and can be decoded by looking at the extension of the website:

  • .com - a commercial enterprise
  • .org - an organization: typically a not for profit organization but may be for profit as well
  • .gov - a government sponsored website. It could be a federal, state, or local government
  • .edu - an educational organization such as a community college or university

Please know that domain names and the respective extensions can be purchased by anyone.

Now let’s look at other ways to deconstruct website and online information. You may have heard of FAT-P Reading and Pre-writing Strategy. It briefly states that every work of art (whether is literary, audio-visual, or artistic), has a particular Form (F), Audience (A), Topic (T) and Purpose (P). We are going to take it a bit further and add Content (C), Creator (C1), Sponsor/Funding (S), and Design (D).

So let’s use this as a FRAMEWORK TO EVALUATE A WEBSITE:

What is the FORM?

  • Is it a website, blog, online news?
  • Is it social media?
  • Online discussion board?

Who is the AUDIENCE?

  • Everyone?
  • Students?
  • Researchers?
  • Faculty?
  • A specific demographic?

What is the TOPIC?

  • What is this about?
  • Is about a specific subject or topic?
  • Is it more general?

What is its PURPOSE?

  • To inform
  • To educate
  • To persuade
  • To sell

What is the CONTENT?

  • Is the information accurate? Is it timely and current?
  • Does the site advertise a product or services?
  • Is there a bias or point of view?
  • Has the information been critiqued or reviewed?
  • Is the reviewer an expert in the field or someone giving their opinion? Many people today provide opinions about things they actually know nothing about. Beware and don’t be fooled.
  • Are the sources stated clearly? Can you find them to check their accuracy?
  • Is the information credible?  Is it supported by other reliable, credible and authoritative sources?
  • When it was last updated?

Who is the CREATOR?

  • Who is the author? Is it a person or an organization?
  • Do they have expertise in the area?

Who SPONSORS the site or who FUNDS the site?

  • Is it a person or organization?
  • Does the site have specific standards or ethics for which they adhere to ensure the authenticity of the information?

Website/Content DESIGN?

  • Does the site look credible?
  • Is it clearly and logically organized?
  • Is the writing style appropriate for the audience?
  • Do you find any typographical errors or misspellings?

Now that we’ve looked at how you can evaluate a website and online information. Let’s take a look website and see if we can deconstruct it. Okay?

Let’s take a look at a webpage: http://martinlutherking.org/

Using the framework let’s call out the components:

FORM

  • This website has an .ORG extension. So you think it’s a not for profit organization. Great.

AUDIENCE

  • Who is this website targeted to? Anyone? Students? Faculty? Researchers?

TOPIC

  • What is the topic?

PURPOSE

  • What is its purpose? To persuade? Educate? Inform? Sell?

CONTENT

  • Let’s look at the content on this website and see if it’s a credible site.
  • Let’s click on the TRUTH ABOUT KING
  • Does this website have a particular slant or bias? Does it try to persuade you? Does it inform or educate you?
  • Is the information accurate? Is the reviewer an expert in the field or someone giving their opinion? Many people today provide opinions about things they actually know nothing about. You need to check it out!
  • Are there any resources cited in the page? Is it accurate? Credible? Is it supported by other reliable, credible, and authoritative sources?

CREATOR

  • Who created this website?
  • If you go to the bottom of the page and click on the Join MLK Discussion Forum: Hosted by Stormfront
  • ‚ÄčIf you look at this forum, you’ll see that it’s run by a white supremacist group. Here’s some content from the forum:

This forum is to discuss the liar, hypocrite, plagiarist, womanizer and communist sympathizer we all know as Martin Luther King.

  • Would you consider this an unbiased and reputable source? Why or why not? Would your professor allow you to cite this for your paper?

SPONSOR/FUNDING

  • Does this site ask for you to donate?
  • Is it funded by a nonprofit organization?
  • How can you tell if the information is accurate, credible and reasonable?

DESIGN

  • How is the website laid out? Does it make logical sense?
  • Are there any typographical errors or misspelling?
  • Does it look credible?

Now let’s checkout another website and see if we can deconstruct that: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1964/king-bio.html

FORM

  • Is it a website?

AUDIENCE

  • Who is the audience? The general public? Researchers? Who else might want to use this website?

TOPIC

  • What is this website about? Is it about Martin Luther King only or is it about Nobel Laureates? Why is this important?

PURPOSE

  • What is the purpose of this site? To educate, inform, persuade, see, educate?

CONTENT

  • What is the site about?
  • Is it biased or reviewed by an expert?
  • Are there resources included to verify the information from which the website is created?
  • Is the information current, authoritative, accurate and relevant?

CREATOR

  • Who is the creator?
  • Is NobelPrize.org, the Official Website of the Nobel Prize, an authoritative, reputable, and an unbiased website? Why or why not?

SPONSOR/FUNDING

  • How is the website funded? Does The Nobel Foundation fund this website?
  • Did you find a bibliography or a list of resources at the end of the webpage on Martin Luther King, Jr., who won The Nobel Peace Prize 1964?

DESIGN

  • How is the website laid out? Does it make logical sense and flow easily from one topic to another?
  • Is the information spelled correctly without typographical errors?
  • Does it look credible?

 

So we’ve looked at two different websites about Martin Luther King, Jr. One is highly credible and an authoritative website. The other is a very biased and slanted website based on the White Supremacist Philosophy. Please remember that anyone can create a website and post whatever they want on it. You need to discern what a credible and reliable resource is. 

Congratulations! You’ve completed Internet Searching.