Searching and Sleuthing: Search Tools
More about Searching and Searching Engines
What's New with Search Engines
Keeping Current with Web-Based Resources
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Searching, Sleuthing and Sifting
Evaluating What You Find
for Selecting Resources)
To recap from lesson one, the Web is a self-publishing medium; this means
anyone with a computer, a modem and Internet access can publish ("mount")
a web page or site. Anyone can publish anything -- and remember, there
is no such entity as the "Internet Police."
How do I know what to look for?
Assuming that you find something that seems as if it might fit your information
need, you may wish to consider the following points to evaluate the resource:
Who sponsored or created the site? Why? (for what purpose?)
If you know this, you can make intelligent assessments about any potential
(for example: if the NRA publishes a site on Gun Control, the point
of view or bias for or against the issue would be different, perhaps, to
an article published in a web site with a focus on Parenting)
Also related to bias or perspective, are issues of authenticity
and credibility -- is the information true, accurate and
(for example, usage statistics for a new drug might be more reliable
coming from a government web site rather than those offered by its manufacturer)
A quick clue as to the source of a web site is the domain (in the url or
(for example: .edu means educational or affiliated institution,
.com means commercial enterprise (which may have a financial reason for
promoting a product or site), .gov means government agency ,and .org means
homepages of individuals are frequently identified by a ~ (tilde) sign
in the url
(for example: http://www.fakehomepages.net/~elkordy) (Note:
many individuals have constructed very useful sites -- don't overlook *all*
personal web sites)
Information about the publisher of the web site can usually be found at
the top and/or bottom of the page
Be especially wary of sites in which the author or sponsoring organization
is not clearly stated or there is no contact information provided
What is the reason for mounting the web site? remember that the motivation
behind the site in part dictates the approach and tone of the content
(for example: to function as a resource? for public relations? to
promote a cause? to show long-distance relatives wedding or baby pictures?
as a teaching aide?)
Who is the intended audience?
Although not always true, often language is a good clue to the targeted
audience. If you are looking for general information on a topic, a site
written for professionals in the field or scholars may not be helpful.
Similarly, if you are looking for the latest research on a topic, a consumer-oriented
site will probably not provide it.
Does it contain accurate information that is useful?
Now that you have ascertained that the site was mounted by a reputable
organization, written in the level and language you need, you are well
on your way to determining if the site is useful to you.
When was the site last updated? Is that important to your topic?
Most well tended sites will clearly state when the content was last updated.
Sometimes frequent updating is essential (for example, at news sites or
where the information changes rapidly). Sometimes this is not a priority
-- such as with online texts or historical information.
Would a traditional print source or specialized computer database be
more appropriate for your needs?
If you are looking for academic research in particular, you may have better
results searching in a database indexing articles published in professional
journals -- in other words, information which has been reviewed by other
professionals in the field.
Is the site easy to use?
If the site is difficult to navigate, it may be hard to extract any information.
Some of the more annoying or cumbersome features include: new browser windows
opening unexpectedly, annoying color schemes, tiny graphics for buttons,
and flashing buttons and the use of frames (for page layout).
Tips for Selecting Resources
To summarize, be especially wary of a web site in which:
the identity of the creator or sponsoring body is not clearly stated
the page does not seem to be connected to an overall site (no header or
footer information, no way to return to a "main" page)
it is not clear when the site was last updated.
As a follow-up to the Exercises in Lesson 2, evaluate three web
sites which deal which the same subject matter. Be sure to include:
your search topic (including depth and scope)
the urls (addresses) of the web sites you choose
your evaluation criteria
Last updated: April 2, 1999
Copyright © 1998-99, Angela Elkordy, Assistant
Professor and Coordinator of Electronic Resources, The Sage Colleges,