Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tutorial & Game: Checking the Accuracy of a Website

This is the Accuracy MicroModule from the 21st Century Information Project. For more modules visit the website.

The accuracy of factual information can help you judge the credibility of the author. Accuracy of information can also provide clues to possible bias in the resource under investigation.

Most web pages are not reviewed or edited by professional editors or publishers. Anyone can post just about anything they want on the Internet. A second grader can claim to be a Nobel prize winner. A Russian professor can be mistaken for an American child due to lack of familiarity with the English language. Satirists or hoax perpetrators can build websites that present an alternate reality.

Don't rely on first impressions. Ask Questions!

A good way to check factual data is by asking probing questions.

Practice this critical thinking skill until it is second nature.

Ask yourself:

What claims is the author making?
What evidence does the author give to support those claims?
What evidence do I find elsewhere to support those claims?
What evidence do I find elsewhere to refute those claims?

How can you check the accuracy of information on a web page? Find the Evidence! Look for:

proper nouns
essential keywords

Use these embedded information accuracy clues to check the facts by using a search engine to confirm or refute the facts under investigation.

Triangulation of Data: This is a standard for serious research. Find at least three sources that agree on the same data point. If you can't find three credible resources that confirm the data, be suspicious!

For example, the distance from the earth to the sun is 93 million miles, fluctuating up to 3 million miles due to its elliptical orbit. Some resources will just say 90 million miles, some 93 million miles and stop there. Until you have three sources that agree on a number, you don't really know for sure. Remember triangulation of data is crucial when checking accuracy.

Is it Accurate? Shall we play a game?

Test your skills at:

finding embedded evidence

checking evidence for accuracy
triangulation of data

Launch Game!

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