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Paideia 112 Research Unit

A step-by-step guide to the Research Paper Unit in Paideia 112.

Evaluating Web Resources

Evaluating material from the World Wide Web is as important as evaluating every book that you use during the research process. By establishing evaluative criteria for online resources, you begin to determine if you can draw any conclusions about the reliability and accuracy of the information you have found.

There are many different types of online resources that are appropriate for investigating historical questions, but you should check with your professor to determine what the requirements are for your section.

Evaluating Web Information

Here are some basic questions to consider as you evaluate information, especially the online resources you found with a search engine.  Do not hesitate to ask you instructor or librarian for help in evaluating the merits of a web source.

  • What is the domain of the site? Is it .edu (educational institution), .com (commercial), or .org (federal or non-profit organization)? After you have identified the domain, you can better determine who actually created the site.
  • What is the function of the site? Is it informational? Does it advertise a product? Does it advocate a point of view? Is it personal opinion?
  • What is the form of the information? Is it a well-organized page or site? Is it in the form of a journal article or similar print resource? Is it a collection of commentaries or opinions?
  • Can you tell who the author is? Are any credentials listed, such as academic degrees, current positions/job titles, or background experience in the topic?
  • Can you corroborate the information you have found by finding the same information in other sources (online or print)? You can use this method to address any controversial questions you may have found when you began to compare your sources of information.
  • How do you plan to use the information in your paper? Does it support your thesis? Does it challenge your thesis? Can you find a scholarly conversation that addresses your topic from different viewpoints? Can you integrate the information with the other sources you plan to use?

Comparing Websites

After you have looked at a few web sites for your topic, choose the best source and use it as the basis of comparison to other web sources that you find.

  • Does one site have more information than the other? Is the information more complete? Does one source include quotations or pictures that help to give you a better understanding of the topic?
  • When you compare the sources, do you find any discrepancies in the facts? Are any controversial questions raised? If you cannot establish that one source is correct, you may need to do more research to determine the basis for the controversy.
  • Can you compare the language used in the sources to determine if the point of view is neutral or if the author(s) exhibit bias against another point of view? If the language is not neutral, can you determine why the authors are representing their point of view?
  • Does one site seem to present unique information that cannot be found in another source?
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