Comparison: Online Sources versus Offline Sources


The world of information is an open field with answers to almost any question with a click of the wrist. The problem is deciding what information is reliable and whether it supports the research topic a student may be searching. Sometimes information posted on the web is not always accurate or reliable. How can a person determine if the information comes from reliable sources? Are offline sources such as magazines, journals, or books better than the information found online? The factors determining Internet sources are similar in determining if the offline sources are reliable. Many articles found in magazines are not always reliable. Whether the information comes from an online website or an offline source is not as important as whether the information is accurate and reliable.

Online and offline sources may or may not be accurate. Asking questions about the information can help determine whether the information is accurate or dependable. Begin with questions concerning where the information came. Does the source come from a national or international organization? Does it come from an educational institution? The way to know if the online source comes from a national or international organization is often found in the web address such as .edu or .gov. The best online sources will give information concerning what organization they are. Looking at the online information does it clearly state who is sponsoring the website? Is there a link to a page stating who the organization is? Can you verify the legitimacy of the sponsor? Most dependable websites will have a date and who wrote the article. It is like dependable written sources should have the name of the author and the credentials they have on the topic.

Determining whether a source of information is accurate whether online or offline should be determined by what other sources have to say about the topic. Are they similar? How do they differ? If they differ too much, then they probably are not reliable. Another important part in determining the accuracy of the information is the person giving the information. What credentials does the person have? Online sources often have experts providing information and can be counted as accurate sources. This is true for offline sources too. Many magazine articles are not written from expert writers. The same guidelines should be true for magazines or other offline information.

Another important factor in using online and offline information is determining the objectivity of the writer. Is the information provided as a public service or an advertising company? Whether it is an offline or online source, if the writer is giving the information as part of a paid advertisement firm the information may be persuaded toward the information it gives.

What is the date of the information? Most magazines, journals, and books have a date. Most accurate information online has a date that it was written or a date it has been updated. Information should be as current as possible.

Is the content comprehensive? Does the article provide a works cited page or reference page concerning the sources used to write the article? Many online articles list a works cited page.

Some questions to ask about online information are:

Both online and offline information can be accurate, reliable, current, and informative. The Internet offers a world of information of many different topics and are as reliable as many journals and books. Decisions about using online material to write a reseach paper or essay often depends on what the instructor wants to be used. Even if the instructor only wants information from journals, often researching the information online will lead to journal articles or help in the research of different topics.

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