Helping Students Find Credible Resources Online

Mar 10, 2019 by

The world of research has changed drastically in the last several decades. Most people’s Encyclopedia Britannica books are collecting dust on the shelves or being used as coasters. The evolution of the internet and search engine sites like Google and Bing have completely transformed the way research is done. Many students no longer know (or need to know) how to navigate a library! There’s no denying the fact that the internet offers valuable information to students with the click of a mouse. But is all the information they find truly valuable? Here are a few tips for helping students determine if the resources and information they find online is  credible.

Go With What You Know

The first sign that the website you’re reading is reputable and credible is that it belongs to an established institution. Government agencies, non-profit organizations, and colleges and universities generally run quality content that is backed by evidence. This means the information if validated and accurate. When possible, have students use websites like the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), FDA (Federal Drug and Food Administration), or DHS (Department of Homeland Security). Basically, anything ending in “.gov” means its a government run website with reliable statistics and up-to-date information.

Looks Are Everything

We teach students that looks aren’t everything, but when it comes to finding reliable resources online, they are! Take a look at an established, well-developed, and reputable website compared to someone’s personal blog. The entire design, layout, and appearance of the pages are different. It’s the difference between the professionals and the rookies. This web design company talks more about what it takes to create a user-friendly and professional looking website.

Search Specialized Information

You wouldn’t ask your doctor for legal advice or your mechanic to clean your teeth, so don’t let students research medical information on a mommy blog or historical facts on a sports page. Help students differentiate between a website offering expert advice and those simply offering their opinions or experience. Medical research should be done using websites like the CDC. Historical facts should really be checked in a library. After all, while history may repeat itself, it doesn’t often change.

Avoid Sales Pitches

It’s no secret that students are easily distracted. And the internet is a black hole when it comes to a child’s attention span. It’s overstimulating and tempting at every turn. Encourage students to avoid falling into sales traps. Most sites ending in “.com” are looking to sell a service or product. They’ll likely put whatever positive spin on the information they need to in order to support their claims and make a sale. Avoiding these types of websites helps combat the belief that if you read it online, it must be true.

Make Sure Its Still Relevant

Just like when you’re eating food from the fridge, it’s important to check the date. Information is constantly changing and being updated but sadly, the same can’t be said for website information. Make sure students are using relevant data, statiscitcs, and facts. The most relevant information can be found in articles printed within the last 30 days. In the Google search engine you can change the timeline for results to articles published within the last month, week, or even hour! This helps students avoid using misinformation or out of date reports.

Avoid Op Eds

You know what they say about opinions — everybody has one! Just because someone decided to start a website and fill its pages with their opinions about politics, theories, global issues, or even medical conditions doesn’t make it true. This is where finding websites written by experts is key. All too often students stumble upon a website filled with information that supports their own beliefs ifs or claims and think that makes it true or validated. Wrong. Op ed pieces are exactly that — someone’s personal opinion. This doesn’t count as a reliable source or one that any student should rely on for accurate information.

While the internet has made gathering information easier than ever before, its also difficult to weed through. It’s even more difficult for impressionable students to separate fact from opinion. Teaching them a few skills when it comes to internet research will help them find and utilize credible resources and avoid a poor grade or the need for a complete revision.

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