Critical evaluation of information is an essential part of the research process. Whether the source of your information is a print reference or a web site, it is important to evaluate the information for accuracy, authority, timeliness, coverage and objectivity. Although print publications are usually subjected to pre-publication evaluation by editors, publishers and peer reviewers, they still may contain inaccuracies and may reflect the bias of individuals responsible for their creation. Likewise, documents appearing on many web sites also undergo rigorous evaluation before they are launched. However, the openness of the web environment makes it possible for almost anyone to publish information without the quality control that is normally part of the print sphere. Therefore, it is important to think about the reliability of the information you retrieve, no matter what the format.
Additional Information for Evaluating Web Information
Marc Meola points out that the internal characteristics provided in checklists are insufficient for Web site evaluation. He prefers a contextual approach that uses information external to the Web site in order to evaluate. Meola suggests the following three techniques:
- Emphasize the use of subscription-based, peer- and editorially-reviewed Web sites provided by the library to retrieve authoritative information.
- Compare Web sites to each other and to reviewed print resources to determine the depth of the information available and to reveal areas of controversy and disagreement.
- Corroborate information from varied and reviewed sources to increase the probability that the information is reliable.