Internet Site Evaluations Essay, Research Paper
“Wow, will you look at this website I found, they claim that 9 out of 10 people in America are millionaires. What’s more, they claim to be the largest online wealth creation firm. Surprisingly, there is no information regarding the author or the origin of this site.” Internet dream or website scheme? If one is easily persuaded by this type of material, it may be time to reassess their knowledge of website criterion. Not all websites are created equal. When judging the validity and accuracy of websites, there are several factors which must be considered before finally ascertaining the veracity of a site. These factors, when reviewed on the whole will allow websurfers to become both more informed and aware of the Internet and websites in general.
“How to perform open heart surgery: A Primer by Billy ‘cool kid’ Johnson.” If a member of ones family had a heart attack, would the above source help in saving their life if a hospital was inaccessible? This would depend on the authenticity and authorship of the source. In any case, using material from an unquestionable source is not a reliable idea. Why? Because the authorship of the source, probably the most important criterion one must use in evaluating the effectiveness of a website, is sometimes debatable. The author of a website can be anyone. It can be ones next door neighbour, someone whom was met last week at a bar or a world renowned open heart surgeon who was on television just three days ago. Before beginning to delve into a site, make sure that authorship meets one of two sub-criterion: if reviewing a site in ones own general area of expertise, be certain that the author is a trusted and well recognized name in the field; or, if visiting a site by an author one is unfamiliar with, make sure that there is either bibliographic information about either the author or the sources the author used. If this information is missing, make sure, at the very least, that the site from which one was redirected from was that of a dependable source. In addition, an author mentioned in a positive manner by another well recognized author or an author who has listed personal contact information about themselves may also be of valuable insight when researching. If the authorship of a site seems questionable, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the site lacks validity, it simply means that the site is not of an absolute scholarly background. Learning to pinpoint useful and noteworthy sources is a difficult task but usually, when one is able to recognize and relate with the authorship of a source, the rest of the criterion should all fall into place.
Books are published every day around the world. It is the job of the publisher of these books to be certain that the books they distribute portray the type of message and image that the public would be intent on receiving. This is exactly the same reason publishers do not accept hate material from being published. Analogous to this book publishing illustration, the same is true regarding websites and the online publishing body, in this case, the server or domain under which a website is found. Take, for example, this brief situation: two possible research sources to comment on the recent decline in the value of the Asian economies are found on the web. The first, http://harvad.edu/prof/ mhodgkins/econ101.html, and the latter, http://members.geocities.com/imsmrt.htm. Which source would one consider more reliable in such circumstances? The choice in this case is fairly apparent, the first. However, in most cases, defining a sites integrity and usefulness is not as clear. This leads to the second factor used in evaluating a website, the publishing body. Although in many cases a publishing body is not listed on the site, the server or the location of the domain usually gives enough information regarding the publishing body of the website residing in the location. There are generally several questions which one must ask when reviewing the publishing body of a website. Firstly, one must take a look if any names (ie. organization, corporate), distinctive emblems or any other characteristic are identified on the site. This will usually help verify or debunk the authenticity and general objective of a site. After this, a look towards the webmaster of the site, any scholarly links and the server of the site is essential. Typically, for server locations and published info, services like dnslookup and whois may be of assistance. Finally, one must ask whether such an organization is recognized in the field and is able to address the issue which one is looking to research. For instance, it would be quite eccentric to find the Humane Society of Peel to report on the need for biological weapons in Canada. Finally, the last important piece of information one must look for is whether the website is an individual account or if it belongs to the official site as a whole. This is meaningful when reviewing personal sites on many of the free webspace services found on the web. Services such as Geocities, Angelfire or Hypermart, which offer free webspace, do not typically reflect the opinions expressed by sites on their server. On the whole, it is generally not exceedingly difficult to determine the publishing body of a website. Even if this task seems intimidating, there are always other mechanisms one can use to identify the value of a particular website.
Point of view or bias
According to a recent study, it was concluded that 90% of the Internet is comprised of sites with particular biases. This is due in large part to the fact that anyone can post material on the web regardless of their knowledge, understanding or opinion regarding a particular topic. Frequently, when one logs on to the Internet, they are bombarded with a slew of conflicting opinions and ideas. It is their arduous task to search through an immense amount of valueless information while trying to obtain the important facts and figures of what is being researched. These difficult tasks of separating biases and finding neutral information lead to the third criterion when reviewing websites, point of view. The Internet is such a diverse resource that many people post up their own views and biases on topics of interest to them. When analyzing the bias of a website, there are, once again, a variety of factors which one must consider before beginning to use or understand a resource’s full potential. To begin, one must take a look at the URL of a website. Usually, the server of the URL will inform one of the organization or corporation under which a website is run. For example, in most cases, a site contained within a corporation’s website will reflect positively on the information presented about the corporation. The second item of note deals with looking at whether a site is under a server with a political or philosophical schedule. For example, if searching for information relating to the development of biological weapons, it is unwise to rely on the opinions of a political party on such an issue. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, it is actually quite difficult to ascertain whether the information presented in a site is ultraist in nature. This is largely due in part to many of these so called ‘radical’ websites simulating the characteristics of an educational site. Once again, it is important to note that most educational websites come across with a general bias towards a particular issue. Ergo, one must learn to understand how to extrapolate these biases and make sure opinions do not conflict with the impartial voice of reason.
Knowledge and Reference of Material
Perhaps of all the website evaluation mechanisms, of particular usefulness to the online researcher, is the amount of knowledge and citation a webmaster gives in regards to his or her own literature. When reviewing absolute scholarly information, it is important to note that the material is presented in a clear, lucid and formal format. Some underlying conditions of such work include the use of footnotes, bibliographic quoting, mention of other sources and disciples in their area of expertise and acknowledgement of contestable theories or treatments towards the issue the author presents. When relating to a site in a scientific field, it is also of importance to establish whether theories and ideologies of the author are appropriate in the scope of the subject. Likewise, if the author presents postulations and hypotheses in his or her research, that they also include the conditions and scrutiny to which their opinions are based. In essence, the author must know what they are talking about. If, for example, the author is unable to cite examples as to why their opinions are the way they are or the names of other notable researchers in their field, it may be time to consider alternative sources.
In our ever evolving lives through this new era of technology, the accuracy of information presented must be examined under intense scrutiny, debated and finally reviewed, before one can ultimately assert whether the veracity of the material presented is of competent quality. Such a process is even more important when reviewing information from a source of whom no particular background is known. Some determining factors of the accuracy of work include, explanation of research methods, whether approach outlined in the document is pertinent to the topic at hand, whether or not the document relies on other documents as sources and whether the website either contains links to such documents or has annotated bibliographies of such articles. Additionally, one must be sure that background data can be verified and individuals or sources providing non-published insight into the document are named. Although the above conditions present a basic delineation of the accuracy process, it is also practical to research other sources and interrelate such documents in the verification process of the information found. This coupled with reassessment of any other sites found along the research trail will ultimately lead to the most sound information being presented.
Information on the Internet is expanding at an exponential rate. However, the rate at which past information is being revised and continuously updated is startling. It is estimated that 95% of websites are updated less than once a month and that at least 99% of sites are abandoned and left out of date after a period of 1 year. These sites also comprise the majority of where relevant research information originates from and is found. Consequently, the currency and timeliness of the information plays a dominant role regarding the usefulness of information. Whereas most of the previously mentioned evaluation methods must be reviewed based solely on assumptions, the currency of information is easy to identify and one of the first criterion to consider before reviewing any website. Currency includes such things like considering the date the information was gathered, a valid date of copyright, date of relevancy of the information presented on the site (ie. graphs, charts, reports, census data) and information on the regularity of updates to the document (ie. updated weekly, daily etc.). Albeit, the above factors are important, the most meaningful currency related factor is a ‘last updated date.’ This last updated date shows the last time the article was updated. This little piece of data will give the actual currency of the information presented on a website. Finally, if running across a site with no date of publication or update given, it might be helpful to try and view the directory under which the information resides and locate the date of latest alteration. Alternatively, a look over the html source of a webpage may be of particular use because usually, many editors will automatically enter a remark as to the last date of modification of a webpage. Collectively, the currency of information presented helps to eliminate misleading sources and direct attention to those sources which maintain the latest facts and figures regarding a specific topic.
After reviewing all these website criterion and understanding the importance of each one individually and then their combined impact, one can finally begin to understand what it must take to find and use accurate and concise information on the web. Although there are additional factors which have not been mentioned, these six factors are those that must be reviewed every time research is done on the Internet. Finding webpages dealing with individual topics is a difficult task to begin with but when one must find helpful and pertinent webpages, the task at hand becomes increasingly complex. One final point is that when searching for sites using various search engines, it is wise to understand how topics are ranked and shown on the hits page. A useful tool in locating documents erudite in background, the search engine Direct Hit helps because of their patented technology ranking search pages by time one spends at them. This technology is one of the best on the web and is helpful when searching for valid websites relating to a specific topic. In conclusion, websites are created with specific goals in mind. While many websites are there to convey facts and figures, there are also just as many sites which portray biased opinions and inaccurate data. Hopefully, by reviewing websites for these six quick criterion, one will go away understanding how to rate the effectiveness and potency of a website and understand that not all sources on the web are created equal.