Internet has definitely marked a revolution in the way human knowledge is being generated, shared, communicated, and stored. The answer to almost any question is available within seconds, courtesy of the invention that has altered how we discover knowledge – the search engine. With this abundance of online information comes the question of credibility. Some critics argue that a tsunami of hogwash has already rendered the Web useless. I disagree. We are indeed inundated by online noise pollution, but the problem is soluble. The good stuff is out there if you know how to find and verify it. What we all need is “information literacy”.
According to Dobson and Willinsky, to be information literate a person “ must be able to recognize when information is needed, and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information”. If we do not know how to critically question the information we find in the internet, we are not likely to be able to tell the difference between good and bad information. In fact information literacy is not rocket science or calculus, it is simply learning how to ask questions about the materials that you find online and how to go below the surface to find out a little bit more than what is already presented to you.
Throughout my work as a blogger, I discovered several techniques to assess the credibility of the online information and here are some of them :
- First ask the question who is the author? If you don’t find one, turn your skepticism meter to the top of the dial.
- Use www.easywhois.com to find out who owns the sites
- If the author name is listed, do a quick search on it to evaluate what others think of her/him.
- Scan The URL of the website. The URL is the web address of the page you are reading. It has this format:www.name of the website.name of article you are reading.com. This is the first door we need to tap in to get a glimpse of what the article is all about. Read the URL carefully and look for the following:
- Does the URL have a domain name and if so is it appropriate for the content? You should know that a site that has a domain name ending with .edu is more likely to be relevant for academic and educational content.
- Check out if the page is dated and if so, is it current enough? Undated factual or statistical information is no better than anonymous information. Be cautious when dealing with it.
- Look for indicators of quality information: are sources documented with footnotes or links? Do the links work? Are they reliable? If the article is reproduced from another source then is it complete, not altered, fake, or forged?
- Try to figure out the purpose of the website? Is it mainly commercial? Is the author trying to generate revenue by recommending things, enticing, or selling products? Is the website informative and provides data and facts?
- Use Google Page rank .This is a sophisticated algorithm Google uses to classify websites from 0 to 10 with 10 being at the top. Any webpage with a Google Page rank of 5 upwards is likely to be more reliable.
- Use Alexa Traffic rank (www.alexa.com). This is another useful tool to rank websites. Alexa ranks websites according to their backlinks and pageviews. It starts with 26 million down to 1 with 1 being the top ( Google has 1 in Alexa rank ). Any website ranked from 90.000 down might is likely to be reliable.