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:
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?
Who is the AUDIENCE?
What is the TOPIC?
What is its PURPOSE?
What is the CONTENT?
Who is the CREATOR?
Who SPONSORS the site or who FUNDS the site?
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:
This website has an .ORG extension. So you think it’s a not for profit organization. Great.
Who is this website targeted to? Anyone? Students? Faculty? Researchers?
What is the topic?
What is its purpose? To persuade? Educate? Inform? Sell?
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?
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
Is it a website?
Who is the audience? The general public? Researchers? Who else might want to use this website?
What is this website about? Is it about Martin Luther King only or is it about Nobel Laureates? Why is this important?
What is the purpose of this site? To educate, inform, persuade, see, educate?
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.