Define your topic and determine specific terms to search for. If the search brings up too many results, narrow it down by using the Not capability (in most search engines a minus sign (-) will exclude words e.g. “bush tucker” –man) (No space between the minus sign and search word.) or adding more terms. Note in the above example the quote marks. These ensure that the phrase is searched as a whole and not each keyword separately. If you have several keywords in a search, but they are not a phrase, put the most important keyword first. If the search doesn’t bring up enough results, take out some limits or use other words that mean the same thing. Some search engines (not Google) allow wildcard symbols to be used, e.g. book* will return book, books, bookshelf, etc. Most search engines have their own search tips and advanced searching screen to be very specific with limits.
Evaluation of Material
Anyone can publish anything on the Internet so be sure that the material you have found is reliable, accurate, objective, not out of date and useful. Look at the following areas to determine the value of the site:
Source: You can determine this partially by looking at who wrote the material. Is the author listed? Is there a link to more information about the author? Is the page produced by an organization with a good reputation? The URL tells you something about where the material comes from by looking at the domain (.edu are educational, .gov is government, .com commercial site, .org organization, .net network, .mil military .au is Australian site). Look at whether the server is a provider for free web pages (e.g. geocities.com). This may be OK but keep the source in mind. Look up the author in Google. Is there an email address and postal address on the page.
Reliability: If the source seems reliable then the material probably will be too. But beware of the reasons for the site. They may have a bias or it may be an advertisement. Some information may be left out so as to distort to their point of view. See if sources are given. Is the language loaded?
Accuracy: Does the information match what you already know about the topic? If there is one mistake, how can you trust the other information? Is there an editor? Crosscheck doubtful material.
Currency: Does the date of the site suit your needs? Is your topic something that could change with time? Do you need the latest information?
Quality: Check out the links and references. Are they real and reputable? Find out what other pages link to the site. (You can do this by typing in Google Link: then the web address of the site to find what pages link to it.) What depth does the material go to? Does it have a table of contents, index, bibliography, site map?
Uniqueness: Is this original work? Can you get the same information elsewhere? Is there any value added to the information.
Completeness: Is it full text? Are there dead links? Large part under construction? Gaps in the material?
Navigation: Is there a clear menu appearing consistently on each screen? Is there a search facility?
User support: Are instructions clear? Is there a help, contact information?
Appropriate technology: Does it work with your browser? Is it accessible for all? Blind? Those with images off? Those using just a keyboard? Are sound or video files captioned? Are there links to required software?
Design: Each page should be a concept or idea and fill a single screen. It should not take longer than 15 seconds to load. Each screen should have common elements, consistent navigational tools and not require too much scrolling.
Font chosen suits target audience? Consistent fonts? Minimum of animated gifs? Images surrounded by white space and facing the surrounding text? Text and background colours compatible? Clear, short, relevant sound that adds information?
Information: Is the site updated? How frequently?
Site: Does it state the last revision date? Email contact of person maintaining site? Does it include PURL in address to ensure site accessibility despite moves?
Integrity: Are the links stable? Are mirror sites available?
Other sources about evaluating material on the Internet:
Western Australia Department of Education http://www.eddept.wa.edu.au/cmis/eval/curriculum/ict/webeval/index.htm
Internet Detective --tutorial
University of California, Berkeley Library
Milton Library at Johns Hopkins University
Evaluating Web Resources by Jan Alexander and Marsha Ann Tate
Comparing & Evaluating Web Information Sources,
From Now On Journal
Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators