Monday, March 26, 2012

Testing the Validity of a Website

Most modern day students resort to the internet to do research. Well, why should't they? Using a search engine to find information is quick, simple, and high yielding. Unfortunately, not all of the information posted online is reliable or accurate, which is why the knowledge of how to test the validity of a website is crucial to anyone who does Google searching.

Before you start researching, you'll need to know what information you'll be looking for the most. For many topics, it's best to start out with "who, what, when, where, why?", as well as any other information that seems interesting.
  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • Other:
Now, the second step is to look at your search results and find the sites that look promising. These are the ones you'll go to first. Also, preview some of websites, if you're not sure. 
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Here are some tips that'll help you filter out which sites you want to use, and which sites you don't:

  • NEVER use wikis! they can be edited by anyone and any sort of irrelevant information can be posted on them!
  • Well known sites or organizations that you may have heard of before will most likely be trustable.
  • Do not use websites that are biased, for example something that was created to promote a certain political party, or talk trash about another.
  • ".org", ".gov", or ".edu" websites are good sources to consider.
  • If using an unfamiliar website, check what the author of the article/site is. If that author has credentials like college degrees or job experience, the information he or she provides will most likely be reliable.
  • While in the search engine, read the URLs. Websites with URLs related to your topic are worth checking out.
  • Read the website descriptions, so you can skip over anything irrelevant. For example, when one Google searches "civil war", one of the results is the homepage of a band, not information on a historical event.
  • Sometimes, visual clues can show you whether a site is reliable or not. If a website has distracting, inappropriate, or popup ads, it's usually not a good source. If a site looks amateurishly designed or difficult to navigate, it is probably best ignored as well.
  • Pretty much any website made for the sole purpose of kids or education is dependable- so an easy way to get basic information about anything is to write "for kids" after the keywords for whatever you're searching for.
  • Is the information current? Some topics will require up to date information, such as world events or science, since topics like these are always changing.
  • If the grammar on a site is insufficient or the sentences choppy, it was cleary not written by someone who knew what they were doing.
  • Of course,one must also use common sense. If the information seems weird or incorrect, don't trust it right away! Instead, find backup in other sources.
After you've found some trusty sources for your research, gather the information you need. A good way to do this is to read the headings of each paragraph, of find any words in the article that are emphasized (large, bold, italics, underlined, different color, etc.). These words may give you a clue about what its context contains. Sometimes, it's more appropriate to actually read an article and find details, while other times, skimming will save time and eliminate surplus information.

The web plays a major role in our lives today, including our educations. It may be large and not extremely organized, but with the right tools and knowledge, anyone can make it safer, easier to use, and more beneficial to their personal needs.

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