Accuracy & Honesty

  • Check for Accuracy
  • Can you find another (preferably print) resource on that subject?
  • Are facts and figures given a source, and can you locate that source to check the author’s statements?
  • Is it a blog?

Examples

AT&T has determined that identity theft is the number one white collar crime in America today (no citation/author given).

The U.S. General Accounting Office has reported that identity theft reporting has increased from 35,235 in 1992 to 522,922 in 1997 (U.S. General Accounting Office, www.gao.gov "Identity Fraud," Report No. GGD-98-100BR, 1998, p. 40].

Is the information Objective?

  • Is the information fair, moderate, and consistent?
  • Does the author present both sides of an issue?
  • Does the author have an agenda, or use meta (key) words in the webpage's or blog's heading or body so that search engines will return them as a hit more often than would be normally warranted?
  • Does the writing style appear to be trying to persuade the audience about an issue or a product?
  • How thorough is the coverage compared to other sources?

Is the Information Current?

In printed documents, the date of publication is the first indicator of currency. If you want current information on cancer research you aren’t interested in something published in the 1970s

  • The webpage includes a publication date or a "last updated" date
  • If no date is given in an electronic document, you can view the directory and read the date of latest modification

The document refers to clearly dated information

Example

"Based on 2000 US Census data, the average household income rose 10% over the last decade."

Other Verification Strategies

Keep in mind search engines are now using “pay per click' revenue generation

  • Check the domain name
  • Beware the ~ tilde
  • Use the "who is" lookup

Pay Per Click

Many search engines are now trying to generate income from content. People can pay a premium to have their website listed whenever someone does a search for certain keywords.

The website author picks the keywords, bids as much as they think it should cost to win the top slot, and then pays by the click. “With cost-per-click (CPC) pricing, you pay only when a customer clicks on your ad, regardless of how many times it's shown. (source: http://www.google.com date: 4/10/05)

“Pay-Per-Click (PPC) search engines are a highly effective way to attract cheap, targeted traffic to your website. PPC advertising works on a bid for position basis. The more you bid, the higher your site will appear in the search engine's results. And you only pay when a visitor "clicks" to go to your site.' (source: JRL enterprises http://www.jrlenterprises.com/pay-per-click-advertising.htm date: 4/12/05)

Check the Domain Name

When the Internet was "born" people got together and gave it some structure and rules. One of the rules is about the domain names.

  • .edu = educational institutions
  • .gov = U.S. government sites
  • .com and .net = commercial sites (and some nonprofits)
  • .org = non profits organizations

If it comes from a .com or .net site it may have bias or profit in mind, not just information. This does not mean that other sites are free of bias; just that this is something you need to keep in mind. What is the purpose and the agenda of the person or organization that developed the site?

The ~Tilde

If you find a website with a tilde ~ in the web address, the person who created that page is not the owner of the website

The ~ tilde is very commonly found on student pages, departmental pages for reports, or on other nonpermanent/transient files.

"Who is" Lookup
http://www.netsol.com/cgi-bin/whois/whois

This service will give you the name, address and phone number of the person (or office) who is responsible for that domain name (and the Web site)

If you feel that you need more information concerning their resources or documentation, you can contact them. For example, if you looked up http://www.saintleo.edu your results would include:

Domain Name: SAINTLEO.EDU
Registrant: Saint Leo College
PO Box 6665
Computer Center MC-2066
Saint Leo, FL 33574
UNITED STATES