Internet CredibilityHow can students know that the information offered by online resources are credible and accurate? (For example, the enotes site.)

Expert Answers
Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One aspect of credibility that must always be taken into account when doing Internet research is the what the sponsor of the site has to gain. When assessing a site such as enotes, this is not an issue, because you will get many points of view on a subject and so the overall picture is more balancced.  But if you are doing research on subjects for which there is a likelihood of bias by sponsors, this is a central question. This morning, I was doing research for a world cultures class I teach, looking for some handouts on the history of a particular country.  What I noticed first was that the site was sponsored by the embassy of that country, in other words, government-sponsored.  What I noticed next was that the history presented did not square with my understanding of that country's history, and it was presented in a way most favorable to that country's present political regime.  So, this was not a handout I wanted for my students.  Credibility was lacking because the current political regime had a stake in rewriting the country's history.  This is something to watch out for when doing research on history, politics, or any "hot-button" issue of the day.  Many people do not understand this aspect of assessing credibility. 

hannahshychuk eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First of all, if we're talking about credibility it's always better if a site is maintained by a number of editors and contributors.  Generally, taking information from a site such as eNotes or Wikipedia is better than taking information from someone's blog.

Also, it's important that a site display when the information was last updated. This displays both a devotion to having current, relevant material and adds to the credibility of a site. Hence the MLA mandates such a date in citations.

Also, it's good to assume that the larger the organization publishing the site or the more in depth the content (the number of pages) the better.

There is also the matter of citations/ references/ bibliography on the site itself. The more of these, the better certainly.

Finally, implore students to use common sense.  If they are in doubt, generally the site isn't a credible resource.

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a very topical question, and the responses are right on-target. I would add these thoughts. When directing my students in their online research, I frequently steer them toward college and university sites. (Look for the ".edu," I advise them.) Since these sites represent their own educational institutions, factual accuracy is of vital concern and bias is not a factor. As for the eNotes site, consider the site's purpose: to assist students and teachers in research. There is no bias or hidden agenda. Also, eNotes editors must possess professional credentials and apply for the opportunity to work on the site by demonstrating their knowledge and expertise. (Editors at eNotes have to take a test before being accepted on the site.) Answers posted on the site are reviewed by supervising editors, as well; an inaccurate answer would be corrected or removed.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I see a number of wise comments with regard to the validity, peer review of work, agenda of site sponsors, and etc. All of these are important factors. One comment that I would add, and I apologize if it has already been said, is does the web site offer contact information. If you have a question about the content are there avenues in place that allow you to ask questions and check for veracity. If you look at the bottom of the eNotes page, you will find several links that will allow you to do this.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the reason this site is trustworthy is because of the way it is set up.  There are many editors and we get paid when we answer questions.  Whenever I see a topic I know about, I look at any answers that have been posted.  If I see a mistake, you can be sure I would post a second answer correcting it and I'm sure other editors would do the same to my posts.  So I think that the large number of editors on this site is a good reason to trust it.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is a lot of debate about whether or not wikipedia is accurate.  Many claim that while it is edited almost instantaneously, there is no way of knowing that at the moment you log on to that specific page that the content is accurate.  Since anyone can change the content, you need to be wary.  On the other hand, when I need to look something up for myself that is usually the first place I go.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would have to say the posters above have given great information. In my research I try to use place like Ebsco to start my searches. Google  also has a way to search for peer reviewed articles. I also like the idea of using '.edu" sights

arrellbelle | Student

In order to see whether or not the information from a site is credible, you have to know who the author of the site or article is. Do they have the credentials or expertise for the information? Also take a look at the date of the article or when the website was established. You always want recent information because over time, information can be corrected. Usually government websites are very credible as well.

cheesecake123 | Student

Wikipedia and othet internet sources are not always accurate; therefor, you cannot use the internet for all information. Especially on reports. Books are most accurate, but sometimes, the internet seems to be more conviet.

epollock | Student

As long as information can be edited and vetted for sources, then there is no reason to doubt the credibility of information. Without any oversight, rumor and speculation are just that, but with proper oversight, information becomes credible.

krishna-agrawala | Student

Internet contains information provided by many diverse sources with a very wide range of reliability or accuracy. Also while a source of information may be very informative and reliable for one type of information, it may be quite worthless or even misleading for other types of information. Therefore, one needs to make efforts to identify and evaluate credible sources of different kind of information required.

There are no fixed guidelines for evaluating the quality of information available from different sources on the Internet. However, it is worthwhile to examine the following aspects of each source.

  1. Who maintains the site. Some sites are maintained by individual with no known standing, and therefore do not inspire confidence. Other site may be maintained by organization or individuals with known expertise in some subjects. Such sites are likely to inspire greater confidence.
  2. The purpose for which the site is maintained. If a site is maintained solely for the purpose of advertising products of the company and for public relations, some amount of bias in information is understandable. On the other hand if the site is maintained with the objective of public service, the chances of such biases are less.
  3. The link between owner of the site and the subject of information. For example if you are looking for the names of directors of a company, the sit of the company itself is likely to provide the most accurate and up to date information.
  4. Author of the specific information given. If a site gives an article by a reputed expert on the subject covered in the article, then this article is likely to carry high credibility irrespective of the credibility of the site itself. The information without identified author tends to be less credible.
  5. A source that provides wider and more detailed coverage of a topic is likely to be more reliable source of information for that subject.
  6. The frequency with which the site is updated. You know some specific information on a site to be outdated then it is wise to accept other information also with some caution.
  7. Past record of the Internet Site. Every user of the Internet needs to judge the quality of information from different site over a period and form a judgement accordingly. It is a good practice to compare information from different sources to to judge their reliabilit.