Students and professionals alike are turning to the Internet to perform research for work and school, handle investments , etc. In recent years, many people have begun to believe that everything contained in the Internet is fact, but this is obviously not so. The Internet is an amazingly broad resource for research, but unless a user knows how to look for signs of reliability, the information gathered during Internet research may not be accurate or of the highest quality available. Reliability can be judged at a high level by investigating the domain name. There are no restrictions on who may apply for a .com, .
net, or .org domain. However, the .edu and .
gov domains are restricted to government agencies and educational institutions. Therefore, information gathered from these sites can be considered more reliable that that obtained from other domains. However, it is important to note that many educational institutions allow students to publish pages under the .edu domain and that information may not be vetted by the institution. There are millions of internet pages and some have been around a long time. Checking for a publication date is essential in ensuring that information is up to date.
Research for this article alone led to pages published as long ago as 1996. A publication or update date is also a sign of a professional site that regards itself as a reliable source for information. However, it must be kept in mind that simply because information is recent, it is not necessarily accurate. Site design can give clues to reliability, as can the writing style of the articles. A badly designed site with broken images or unprofessional design may not be the best source of information. Similarly, a site with poor grammar, spelling or syntax must also be questioned.
Sites do experience technical difficulties, though, and this is something that must be taken into account when assessing a site for reliability. Sourcing is a strong indicator of reliability. With the advent of keyword article marketing, more and more articles are being written to attract search engines. Some of these articles are certainly reliable, but many are written by people with no expertise in the subject matter.
A quality article will contain sources for the material, quotes from professionals in the field, and footnotes for quoted sources. Finally, information about and contact information for the author is the strongest indicator of reliability available. An author willing to take credit for their work and to invite correspondence is someone who is confident in the quality of their information. Additionally, contact information allows a researcher to ask additional questions of the author that may not have been covered in the original article.
Jonathon Hardcastle writes articles on many topics including Computers, Men's Health, and Science