Briefly comment on the 'reliability' and 'validity' of using the website linked below as an information source?Website -...

2 Answers

herappleness's profile pic

M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Reliability= Consistency

Validity= Substance

Reliability is the consistent result of a measurement over a during repeated attempts. In research, a reliable source is one that, similarly, shows consistent, unbiased, and objective information that has been used by other investigators over a period of time.

The website is not reliable because it is biased in favor of its own services and because its purpose is to sell a service as well.

GlobalSpec provides its sell-side client base of companies seeking to reach the worldwide engineering audience with highly filtered sales leads, product promotion and brand advertising platforms

Validity is the substance of the information and whether it actually establishes a correlation to what is being researched.

For example, construct, internal, and external validity contends that you will get information from a source that undeniably will give you an objective analysis of information without bias, with enough documentation and solid scientific and methodological evidence.

This website is NOT showing biased, solid, and rearch-based information. It is not an informational site at all, but a persuasive marketing tool. Hence, in no way I would use this website as a source of research, but maybe as an addendum to use as an example of what marketing tools are available in the field.

lynnebh's profile pic

lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

This website is a search engine for engineers. Its purpose, as stated on its website, is as follows:

GlobalSpec is the leading specialized vertical search, information services and e-publishing company serving the engineering, manufacturing and related scientific and technical market segments. The company provides its buy-side users with domain-expert search engines, a broad range of proprietary and aggregated Web-based content and over 60+ product and industry e-newsletters that help engineers and related professionals perform their key job tasks with the highest levels of accuracy and productivity. GlobalSpec provides its sell-side client base of companies seeking to reach the worldwide engineering audience with highly filtered sales leads, product promotion and brand advertising platforms and a wide range of e-media advertising and marketing services.

So, as you can see, a primary purpose of the site is selling advertising and marketing. It does not appear to be a purely scholarly website because of this, although that does not necessarily mean the information you might obtain from the site is not valid or reliable.

You will need to determine what the requirements are at your college as to whether or not you are allowed to cite such websites. Some colleges have very specific rules about this, only allowing scholarly websites such as .gov, .edu, etc. in research and writing. Other colleges allow citations from such websites as long as the purpose of the website is made clear.

It really depends on your purpose. Think of it this way: you can cite a quote that you get from a newspaper's Op Ed section regarding President Obama's health care plan if you are researching different opinions regarding the plan, but if you use that same quote as supporting evidence for research regarding the actual provisions of the plan, it would not be appropriate - you would need something more scholarly and/or something that has validity, not just what a newspaper writer says about the health care plan. So the newspaper website might be OK to use for some things, but not for others.

If you are in an engineering program, you should check with your professors. They might know more about the website's validity and reliability. There are some online encyclopedias, for example, that allow anyone to go in and make changes. Although they have people that monitor this, such websites are not 100% accurate because of this and many professors do not allow citing them in research. Your professors would know more about this website and its pros and cons.

A good rule of thumb is to check more than once source for any information online. Just because something is online does not make it valid or reliable, same as with written material. You need to find out who writes the information, where it comes from, what the qualifications are of the people that write the information, etc., and your professors would know more about this than you would, most likely.