The Internet is a fantastic source of information, which most of us use on a daily basis. We use search engines to find websites to answer our questions, but do we ever think critically about the websites we look at?
Websites offer a mix of information, entertainment and advertising and don't always have an 'about' section, so it's difficult to know both who put the information there and why they put it there. Therefore you should be careful when using websites, for not just academic purposes, but for anything really.
Literally anyone can publish anything on the web, which means there is no guarantee of the quality or accuracy of the information you find online. For every site that says one thing, you can probably find another site that says the exact opposite.
Google and other search engines work in secret. You don't know why the first result from your search is chosen as the first result, but you can be sure that it's not because people have looked at every website and decided that of all of the websites that match your search, this one is the best. So just because a website appears of the first page of your search results, it doesn't mean that it is a good website, or a website that will help you with your work.
You should evaluate all the information sources that you use, but it's particularly important to ask questions of websites. You wouldn't want to lose marks by using poor quality information sources in your assignments.
The library will subscribe to a number of resources that are available through a web browser. These resources will contain scholarly journals, trade and professional publications, books, dictionaries, encyclopaedias and other information sources. What they have in common is that are good quality and authoritative sources of information; they have been reviewed by people - specialists who have decided that the information sources included are of good quality and reliable.
Elsewhere on this library website, there are subject guides. These will contain a list of resources relevant to the particular topic and will list some good quality websites that may be useful to your studies. Library resources and suggested websites should be used for your academic work; don't just Google a topic!
Anyone can publish anything on the web
Many web pages are intended to deceive
Home page of the campaign to save the Pacific Northwest tree octopus, which is endangered because its forest habitat is under...Hey, wait a minute, OCTOPUSES DON'T LIVE IN TREES!
Martinlutherking.org looks legit, but check the text at the bottom (right click on the image and 'View Image'): "Hosted by Stormfront". Look up Stormfront and then think how accurate and reliable any information on this site is likely to be.
- Incredible breadth of information
- Easy and quick access to information
- Can be kept up-to-date easily
- Anyone can create a website, and some websites are created to deceive
- Not always reliable or of good quality
- Searches can return a lot of hits so it can be difficult to identify the best results
- A lot of good information might be hidden behind a paywall
- More so than other sources, you have to evaluate the suitability of a site as an information source