An Educators' Guide to Credibility and Web Evaluation

EPS 304/Spring, 1999

University of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign

Toni Greer , Donna Holinga ,
Christy Kindel and Melissa Netznik
Springfield Public Schools /Springfield, IL

Revised 7/01/2002
Josh Brown , Kathy Hickey , and Valarie Pozen

The 2002 addendum by Heidi Adreon, Anne Catey, and Kery Strysick



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Why Evaluate Web Information

Methods of Evaluation

Teaching Web Evaluation


Bibliography


White papers on other related issues:

Access
Free Speech, Censorship
Privacy
Commercialization
Intellectual Property, Plagiarism
Computer Crime and Technology Misuse

"You may have heard that 'knowledge is power,' or that information, the raw material of knowledge, is power. But the truth is that only some information is power: reliable information" ( Harris, R. ). The Internet is a virtual library, consisting of an unlimited amount of information. Anyone is allowed to publish and access this information. Furthermore, the sites are created for a variety of purposes to inform, persuade, sell, and change an attitude or belief. The sites are not monitored, edited, regulated, or approved. All of these factors remind us of the fact that information that has been published on the Web, is no indication of its believability or accuracy.

The Internet is a relatively new medium, with the first site being posted in 1991. Therefore, people often either approach the Internet with skepticism, or without questioning the material at all. Should we question the credibility of material found on the Web? Should we evaluate electronic information more so than printed material? What factors contribute to a credible source?

In answering these questions, one must first define credibility. A resource that is credible is one which shows evidence of authenticity, reliability and believability ( Harris, R. ). Basically, the key to credibility is trust; How well can one trust the information found on the Internet, as well as other resources?

In addressing the issues of credibility and Web evaluation, especially in relationship to Internet use in the classroom, this white paper will consider the following factors: 1. Reasons to evaluate; 2. Methods of evaluation; and 3. Teaching Web evaluation.

In order to assess the credibility of a source, there are some general questions to ask oneself when viewing a source: 1. What about this source makes it believable, or not? 2. How does this source know the information? 3. Why should I believe this source over another? ( Harris, R. ) Answering these questions helps one evaluate the credibility of a source and establish a trust in the information's accuracy.

The primary argument in favor of evaluating the credibility of Internet information is the overwhelming size of this medium. To illustrate this fact, in January, 1994, there were approximately 900 World Wide Web sites in the entire Internet. At this point, one could actually view every page on the Web. By June, 1996, this number had increased to an estimated 320,000 sites (Ciolek, M. ). Finally, given the annual doubling rate trend of the Internet that many predict, it is quite probable that as of April, 1999, there may be as many as 550 million Web pages in existence on the Web, and the Internet is growing daily ( Bruce, B. ). Furthermore, it has grown from being a source of scholarly information to a mass medium of all kinds of communication. Although the size of the Internet can be viewed as both a positive and negative factor, with such a vast amount of information available on the Web, it seems impossible that all of the sites can be considered credible. Therefore, it is important to differentiate between sites that are credible and those that are not.

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Date Last Modified: 7/01/2002
by Josh Brown