Tips for Evaluating Internet Sources


Many students believe that the information they find on the Internet is true. Every statistic and every quote are not legitimate. The fact is that all information used on the Internet should be checked for validity and reliability. Another common mistake that people make in using information from the Internet is failing to cite the source. Plagiarism is wrong and hurts everyone involved. It is important to know whether the information coming from the World Wide Web is valid and always cite where the information is found.

The first step in determining validity of the sources is to ask: What is the intent of the content of the information? Does it come from a credible source? Why has the information been listed on the World Wide Web? Does the URL come from .edu, .com, .gov or .org? Knowing the answers to these questions help a reader determine whether the information is valid. If the reason for putting the information on the World Wide Web is to sell a product, the information may not be totally reliable. What experience does the author have with the subject? Does the writer have a doctorate degree?

What is the date the information is listed? Has it been updated? Does the information come from scholarly sources or popular sources? Scholarly web sites usually come from a source that has education and experience about the topic. Know whether the information comes from a valid source.

It is important to check the dates of statistics before using them. Some information on the Internet is outdated and has not been updated. Check several statistics to see if the information is about the same. Quality statistics should be dated as close to the date of custom-writing the term paper or essay.

Use critical thinking skills before using the source. Ask yourself questions to determine how valid and reliable the sources are. If the sources (Primary or Secondary) do not compare with other sources then it probably is not accurate information.

While writing a paper, never use a source without citing it. Plagiarism is like stealing information from someone. Most people recognize stealing as wrong, stealing information is wrong as well. This should include the name, title, journal, magazine, or book, dates, and the URL. Never use a source because it is on the Internet without citing where the information is found. All sources used in a good term paper or essay must be cited in the article as well as using a reference or works cited page. Many people think that if you do not quote word for word that you do not need to cite the source, but this is wrong. In order to avoid plagiarism, every source must be credited. Another problem with plagiarism is the misunderstanding of copyright.

A copyright is a set of exclusive rights that authors have over their own work for a limited period of time. For instance, if a person writes a poem sitting in the classroom and gives it to a friend. The poem is copyrighted the moment the person writes the poem. If the friend wanted to place it on the Internet, the friend would need permission from the author. Another example of copyright is when a person creates the words to a song. This written song is copyrighted whether any one ever sings it or not.

Another common misunderstanding is that teachers, professors, and students can use any information on the web without giving credit to where it was found. This is plagiarism. Copyright laws found on the Internet give more information about this topic. If in doubt, check the copyright laws.

When using information from the World Wide Web, be sure that the information is reliable and valid. Always cite the sources and create a reference page in an appropriate format.

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