As you've heard before, the web is a free resource and anyone who wants to can publish there. Sometimes this means you find websites with bad information. Other times you find really good websites. One way to make sure you're using the good ones is to consider using websites that have been reviewed by experts. Here are a couple places to get started:
- The Librarian's Index to the Internet is a collection of sites approved by librarians. These sites are often appropriate for academic research.
- Z. Smith Reynolds Library is building up a collection of useful resources, too. You can find the AskZak links on del.icio.us.
Comparing websites will help you determine which ones are the best for your topic. If you do a web search and find two different sites that look useful, open them both up and compare them. You might find that one has been updated more regularly, has more information, or seems less biased. That website is the one to choose. Then, you might compare that site with another one and see which site is most appropriate at that point. Think of it as a basketball tournament, except instead of basketball teams, you're comparing websites.
Corroboration is a useful technique. When you find new information that you don't know to be true or not, look for another source to back up the information. If you find another site with the same information, that site corroborates the information on the first one. For example:
This website looks like a really good hospital website explaining how they have helped a man become pregnant. However, we know from our personal experience that men cannot be pregnant, nor have we heard any news stories about this topic. Since we can't corroborate this information, we know this information is false.
When corroborating, remember that corroborating sources that are varied and peer-reviewed sources are more effective. Sometimes you might find the best corroborating document is in paper.
This contextual evaluation of the web is based on Marc Meola's "Chucking the Checklist: A Contextual Approach to Teaching Undergraduates Web-Site Evaluation." portal: Libraries and the Academy 4.3 (2004) 331-344.