The purpose of this paper is to show how web sites can be a valuable research source for students if approached with due caution.
This article is the product of collaboration between a sociology professor and a librarian. The authors discuss the nature of their collaboration and present their views on web evaluation in the context of an extensive literature review.
Reputable print sources have numerous mechanisms to help ensure reliability: proven authors and editors, track record, and (sometimes) peer review. Obviously, the vast majority of web sites lack these features. Accordingly, the paper offers a critical look at the standard criteria of web evaluation with illustrations from two sites, one credible, one not.
Healthy skepticism regarding the internet is urged. It is suggested that web evaluation has costs and benefits. The chief benefit of careful web site evaluation is that the process makes it more likely than otherwise that one will wind up with reliable sites. The main cost is that evaluation takes time, and the value of a given piece of information declines according to the effort one spends verifying it. A second potential cost is that undue skepticism can prompt one to dismiss perfectly respectable sites.
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