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Getting online and searching the web: Evaluating websites and content

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It’s easy enough to find information online, but it’s sometimes harder to assess whether it’s reliable, current, or correct. Anyone can write anything they want, and can claim to be anyone they like.

There are three simple questions to ask yourself to help you to work out whether you want to rely on the information it contains.

  • Who is the author? – Try to find some information on the site that tells you who the author is. This could be in an 'About us' section, or in the contact details. Does the author have some authority in terms of the information on a site? Check that the site content is objective and that it is not biased to one particular viewpoint.
  • Do the aims of the site match the content? – If the site does present biased information often the author will explain why, and this may help you assess the reliability of the information.
  • When was the content produced? – Look when it was last updated.

For an introduction to skills for working online take a look at the Library's Being digital website. It contains a collection of short, easy to follow activities covering the skills needed to be effective online, including evaluating and trusting online content.

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