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TEN POINT WEBSITE EVALUATION CHECKLIST

(Developed from the system of the Poynter Institute)
● AUTHORITY: Is this a recognised expert, or a body with a known reputation?
● AFFILIATION: Is the site connected with a reputable person or organisation?
● ACCURACY: If you can spot mistakes while reading the site, then start worrying.
● APPEARANCE: Is the site well put together? A reliable site may look old-fashioned, but a
sloppy or amateurish presentation could indicate an individual, or some flyby-
night operation.
● COMPREHENSIBILITY: Does it make sense? (But remember: people writing in a second
language may be less clear than native speakers.)
● CURRENCY: Is it up-to-date?
● LINKS: Look at respected sites on the subject: do they link to the one you are
examining?
● PAGE RANK: If you use a Google Toolbar, it will offer a 1-10 rank on how a page is
regarded on the web. Several other search services offer such rankings.
● OBJECTIVITY: Are there signs of bias?
● CREDIBILITY: A simple test: do you believe it? Does common sense tell you it is true?
Don’t feel you should use these criteria every time you check out a site; just be aware of the
pitfalls.

Filed under: How to evaluate a website?,

Safety Online

The Child Safe Internet; safety online for children

By Phil Bradley

Top tips

  • Be positive about the Internet – it’s a marvellous place for children to go, to make friends, do their homework and to learn about the environment around them. Don’t make them scared of using the Internet.
  • Everyone that you meet online is a stranger, despite what they may say.
  • Encourage the child to use a nickname when they log on; make this into a fun game. However, try not to choose names that someone could pick up on and use to start a conversation, such as ‘Liverpool fan’ or ‘cat lover’.
  • Don’t arrange to meet anyone online without having checked in advance and making sure that a responsible adult is with the child.
  • If in a chat room, encourage the child to stay public, and not to go into a private room, or engage in one-on-one messaging.
  • Don’t open unsolicited emails; they may contain viruses, or links to pornographic sites. Don’t blame your child if he or she receives these.
  • Encourage children to ask an adult if they have any concerns about using the Internet.
  • Use child friendly sites.

The major areas of concern

Chat rooms

“Areas on web sites that support “live” or real time communication over the Internet. Unlike e-mail with each person sending mail and waiting for a reply, chatting involves two or more people typing comments back and forth in a conversational style. As one person enters text it appears on the other person’s screen in real time.” These may be monitored rooms or not. They enable children to make friends with others, swop files (such as music files) or play interactive games online with others. Children will see these as a fun way to extend their social lives, without possibly recognising the dangers inherent. Anyone can pretend to be anyone online – there are NO checks on this. “No-one knows that you’re a dog”
People may pose as children or teenagers, strike up a friendship and try and meet a child in an unsafe environment. Even if the adult is honest about their age, this does not imply that their intentions are good. In the UK Section 15 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 makes it an offence for a person to meet or travel to meet a child with the intention of committing a sex offence, if he has communicated with that child on at least two previous occasions. This is often known as ‘grooming’.

Encourage your children to chat sensibly in a chat room, and try and ensure that they do not give away personal details. These would include where they go to school, where they live, their email addresses, names of other family members and so on. If someone obtains this information, it would be very easy for them to log back into the chatroom at another time under another name, and strike up a friendship ‘because we’ve got so much in common’. Particularly ensure that they don’t give out photographs of themselves to strangers, and just because they have received a photograph first, this does not mean that it is a photograph of the person that they are talking to.

Never reveal any personal details that would enable someone to contact the child outside of the chat room.
Keep online friends online; only meet if the child is with a responsible adult. This is basic safety advice that should apply to everyone, whatever their age.

There are several child friendly chat rooms that you can direct a child towards, such as Chatters, Kidchatters, Gridclub A good site with further information can be found at http://www.chatdanger.com/

Other methods of contact

Most computers (or at least those that run Microsoft software) will have an Instant Messaging service, which is very similar to mobile phone texting. It works like a chat room, where you swop messages back and forth, can share files, allow someone to have access to your system, or start a webcam chat. These can be a marvellous way of showing the grandparents the new baby, but they also have other uses, and children should be supervised if they use the service. The same rules for chatrooms apply here as well.

Searching for information on the Internet

Most search engines have an ‘adult’ filter that will attempt to filter out adult or pornographic images, but these cannot be relied upon to work. Rather than use a search engine which is designed for adult use, instead use a search engine that is designed for children. Another good listing of appropriate search engines can be found from the Searchenginewatch site, and here is another list of student friendly search engines. You might also find the Killer Info Kids search engine to be of interest. A final excellent listing is Kids Search Engines from Fagan Finder.

Be aware that some websites are specifically designed to provide children with incorrect or false information, particularly if they are looking for sites to do their homework. An example of this is the ‘Martin Luther King Jr: A true historical examination’ website at http://www.martinlutherkingdotorg/ (Please be aware that this is an unpleasant site, so be careful if you decide to visit it).

Blocking unsuitable material

As well as using a child friendly search engine, it is also sensible to install filtering or blocking software. It is however possible to by-pass these software packages, so they should not be relied upon 100%. The packages can control content, control contacts, shopping, privacy, time management, security and can monitor and record activity. The Parents Internet Network provides a list of packages which should be considered. Each package has been assessed for a variety of different factors and provides an unbiased opinion on their use and value. These products can be set to work at different levels for different users of the system, so while they are not difficult to install, some basic understanding of how the computer works, and how to set up different users on a single computers is necessary in order for the software to work correctly. Most of these packages are commercial in nature.

Check the authority of a website

  • Check to see when it was last updated.
  • Check to see if authorship details are available
  • Check the URL to see if it is a .gov (government), .edu or .ac (academic) website
  • Check the links to the website by going to a search engine such as Google and typing link:www.mysite.com to see who is linking to a site.
  • Check to see who the site is owned by. A service such as Easyspace has a nice utility that does this.
  • Check to see what the site used to look like by using the Wayback machine.

Useful websites

The Parents Information Network.
GetNetWise
Department of Education and Skills (UK)
Childnet International
For Kids by Kids Online
National Children’s Charity
Internet Watch Foundation
Childline
ThinkUKnow (This has a useful guide that can be downloaded as a .pdf or viewed in HTML)
Common sense media Reviews of films and games and an indication of their suitability for children.
EU plans for a safer internet for children. BBC news item.
Controlling Access to Internet Content What the Australians are doing in this area.
The use of filter systems A .pdf document covering the role of filtering. Produced by the University of British Columbia.
Commission on Online Child Protection (COPA) Links to various research papers in this area.
Information Society website A wide variety of links to material covering this subject area.
Kids on the web A good article that provides an overall view of the problem, with various solutions.
Acceptable Use Policies Links to various web pages that discuss acceptable use policies.
Children’s Internet Protection Act (US) Lots of useful links and information.
About Family Information Good overviews, with useful links.
Google search: “controlling access to the internet” children Click on the link to run the search.
Google search “internet filtering software” Click on the link to run the search.

Computers in Schools

Computers in schools: by type of school, 1997/98 and 1998/99: Social Trends 30
Access to the Internet: by type of school, 1998-2000
More detailed topics for Information technology in schools
Growth in internet connection and use in British secondary schools 1997-9
Information and Communications Technology in Schools in England: 2003
Children get impatient on the net – BBC new article
Using PDAs in schools

Some examples of initiatives schools are taking on the internet

Search facilities for existing websites
Guest books
Chat rooms (currently being upgraded)
School webrings
Web polls
Calendars
Book reviews
Quizzes
Crosswords
News feeds and examples from Wolverhampton Grammer school are here.


This article is © Phil Bradley 2004 and was last updated 27th March 2004

For more Internet tips and search help, visit Phil Bradley

Filed under: How to evaluate a website?

How to Evaluate a website?

Dear students

How can you assess the authenticity and correctness of the information given on a website?

Here are some usefull links that helps you.

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Also read this article published on the website of “The sheridan Libraries” at the John Hopkins University written by Elizabeth E. Kirk

Evaluating Information Found on the Internet



The World Wide Web offers information and data from all over the world. Because so much information is available, and because that information can appear to be fairly “anonymous”, it is necessary to develop skills to evaluate what you find. When you use a research or academic library, the books, journals and other resources have already been evaluated by scholars, publishers and librarians. Every resource you find has been evaluated in one way or another before you ever see it. When you are using the World Wide Web, none of this applies. There are no filters. Because anyone can write a Web page, documents of the widest range of quality, written by authors of the widest range of authority, are available on an even playing field. Excellent resources reside along side the most dubious. The Internet epitomizes the concept of Caveat lector: Let the reader beware. This document discusses the criteria by which scholars in most fields evaluate print information, and shows how the same criteria can be used to assess information found on the Internet.


What to consider:
Authorship
Publishing body
Point of view or bias
Referral to other sources
Verifiability
Currency
How to distinguish propaganda, misinformation and disinformation
The mechanics of determining authorship, publishing body, and currency on the Internet

Authorship is perhaps the major criterion used in evaluating information. Who wrote this? When we look for information with some type of critical value, we want to know the basis of the authority with which the author speaks. Here are some possible filters:

  • In your own field of study, the author is a well-known and well-regarded name you recognize.
  • When you find an author you do not recognize:
    • the author is mentioned in a positive fashion by another author or another person you trust as an authority;
    • you found or linked to the author’s Web/Internet document from another document you trust;
    • the Web/Internet document you are reading gives biographical information, including the author’s position, institutional affiliation and address;
    • biographical information is available by linking to another document; this enables you to judge whether the author’s credentials allow him/her to speak with authority on a given topic;
    • if none of the above, there is an address and telephone number as well as an e-mail address for the author in order to request further information on his or her work and professional background. An e- mail address alone gives you no more information than you already have.

Return to list of considerations

The publishing body also helps evaluate any kind of document you may be reading. In the print universe, this generally means that the author’s manuscript has undergone screening in order to verify that it meets the standards or aims of the organization that serves as publisher. This may include peer review. On the Internet, ask the following questions to assess the role and authority of the “publisher”, which in this case means the server (computer) where the document lives:

  • Is the name of any organization given on the document you are reading? Are there headers, footers, or a distinctive watermark that show the document to be part of an official academic or scholarly Web site? Can you contact the site Webmaster from this document?
  • If not, can you link to a page where such information is listed? Can you tell that it’s on the same server and in the same directory (by looking at the URL)?
  • Is this organization recognized in the field in which you are studying?
  • Is this organization suitable to address the topic at hand?
  • Can you ascertain the relationship of the author and the publisher/server? Was the document that you are viewing prepared as part of the author’s professional duties (and, by extension, within his/her area of expertise)? Or is the relationship of a casual or for-fee nature, telling you nothing about the author’s credentials within an institution?
  • Can you verify the identity of the server where the document resides? Internet programs such dnslookup and whois will be of help.
  • Does this Web page actually reside in an individual’s personal Internet account, rather than being part of an official Web site? This type of information resource should be approached with the greatest caution. Hints on identifying personal pages are available in
    Understanding and Decoding URLs.

Return to list of considerations

Point of view or bias reminds us that information is rarely neutral. Because data is used in selective ways to form information, it generally represents a point of view. Every writer wants to prove his point, and will use the data and information that assists him in doing so. When evaluating information found on the Internet, it is important to examine who is providing the “information” you are viewing, and what might be their point of view or bias. The popularity of the Internet makes it the perfect venue for commercial and sociopolitical publishing. These areas in particular are open to highly “interpretative” uses of data.

Read Information and its Counterfeits: Propaganda, Misinformation and Disinformation for learn more about “interpretational views” that exceed the facts.

Steps for evaluating point of view are based on authorship or affiliation:

  • First, note the URL of the document. Does this document reside on the Web server of an organization that has a clear stake in the issue at hand?
    • If you are looking at a corporate Web site, assume that the information on the corporation will present it in the most positive light.
    • If you are looking at products produced and sold by that corporation, remember: you are looking at an advertisement.
    • If you are reading about a political figure at the Web site of another political party, you are reading the opposition.
  • Does this document reside on the Web server of an organization that has a political or philosophical agenda?
    • If you are looking for scientific information on human genetics, would you trust a political organization to provide it?
    • Never assume that extremist points of view are always easy to detect. Some sites promoting these views may look educational. To learn more, read “Rising Tide: Sites Born of Hate“, New York Times, March 18, 1999. (This link will take you to the online edition of the Times; you must register, free of charge, to view the article).

Many areas of research and inquiry deal with controversial questions, and often the more controversial an issue is, the more interesting it is. When looking for information, it is always critical to remember that everyone has an opinion. Because the structure of the Internet allows for easy self publication, the variety of points of view and bias will be the widest possible.

Return to list of considerations

Referral to and/or knowledge of the literature refers to the context in which the author situates his or her work. This reveals what the author knows about his or her discipline and its practices. This allows you to evaluate the author’s scholarship or knowledge of trends in the area under discussion. The following criteria serve as a filter for all formats of information:

  • The document includes a bibliography.
  • The author alludes to or displays knowledge of related sources, with proper attribution.
  • The author displays knowledge of theories, schools of thought, or techniques usually considered appropriate in the treatment of his or her subject.
  • If the author is using a new theory or technique as a basis for research, he or she discusses the value and/or limitations of this new approach.
  • If the author’s treatment of the subject is controversial, he or she knows and acknowledges this.

Return to list of considerations

Accuracy or verifiability of details is an important part of the evaluation process, especially when you are reading the work of an unfamiliar author presented by an unfamiliar organization, or presented in a non-traditional way. Criteria for evaluating accuracy include:

  • For a research document, the data that was gathered and an explanation of the research method(s) used to gather and interpret it are included.
  • The methodology outlined in the document is appropriate to the topic and allows the study to be duplicated for purposes of verification.
  • The document relies on other sources that are listed in a bibliography or includes links to the documents themselves.
  • The document names individuals and/or sources that provided non- published data used in the preparation of the study.
  • The background information that was used can be verified for accuracy.

Return to list of considerations

Currency refers to the timeliness of information. In printed documents, the date of publication is the first indicator of currency. For some types of information, currency is not an issue: authorship or place in the historical record is more important (e.g., T. S. Eliot’s essays on tradition in literature). For many other types of data, however, currency is extremely important, as is the regularity with which the data is updated. Apply the following criteria to ascertain currency:

  • The document includes the date(s) at which the information was gathered (e.g., US Census data).
  • The document refers to clearly dated information (e.g., “Based on 1990 US Census data.”).
  • Where there is a need to add data or update it on a constant basis, the document includes information on the regularity of updates.
  • The document includes a publication date or a “last updated” date.
  • The document includes a date of copyright.
  • If no date is given in an electronic document, you can view the directory in which it resides and read the date of latest modification.

If you found information using one of the search engines available on the Internet, such as AltaVista or InfoSeek, a directory of the Internet such as Yahoo, or any of the services that rate World Wide Web pages, you need to know:

  • How the search engine decides the order in which it returns information requested. Some Internet search engines “sell” top space to advertisers who pay them to do so. Read Pay for Placement? from Searchenginewatch.com.
  • That Internet search engines aren’t like the databases found in libraries. Library databases include subject headings, abstracts, and other evaluative information created by information professionals to make searching more accurate. In addition, library databases index more permanent and reliable information.
  • How that search engine looks for information, and how often their information is updated. An excellent source for search engine information is Search Engine Showdown, written by Greg R. Notess.

All information, whether in print or by byte, needs to be evaluated by readers for authority, appropriateness, and other personal criteria for value. If you find information that is “too good to be true”, it probably is. Never use information that you cannot verify. Establishing and learning criteria to filter information you find on the Internet is a good beginning for becoming a critical consumer of information in all forms. “Cast a cold eye” (as Yeats wrote) on everything you read. Question it. Look for other sources that can authenticate or corroborate what you find. Learn to be skeptical and then learn to trust your instincts.

© 1996 Elizabeth E. Kirk

http://www.library.jhu.edu/researchhelp/general/evaluating/

Filed under: How to evaluate a website?,

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