Library Research at Virginia Tech


The Internet contains a lot of information and can be fun, but how much of it is really USEFUL to you when you have an assignment or a paper to write? How can you tell what will be helpful and what will not?

Remember that the Internet DOES NOT REPLACE resources owned by or accessed via the University Libraries, such as periodical indexes. These tools usually have no equivalent on the Internet.

And remember that ANYONE can publish on the Internet, whereas periodical articles and books must be critiqued by scholars and approved by an editor before being published.

The idea is to be a "careful consumer" when using the Internet for research. The Internet will be a good supplement but it is not advisable to rely solely on the Internet for your information. A Reference Librarian at the University Libraries can help you identify what resources on campus and on the Internet will be best for your topic. Feel free to ask!

Here are some questions to consider:

  SCOPE What is the purpose of the site?
    Are all aspects of the topic covered?
    Is the coverage in depth?
    Does the information add to what you already know about your topic?
    Are there visual aids that enrich the text?
  AUTHORITY Are the author's qualifications available?
    Is the author's education related to the topic?
    Does the author have other expertise related to the topic?
    Is the author associated with an educational institution or other reputable organization?
    Does the publisher or publication have a reputation for reliability?
    Is contact information for the author or group available on the site?
  TREATMENT Is the information presented as fact or opinion?
    Are conclusions logical?
    Are there footnotes or references to support the information?
    Is the information free from bias?
    Is the information consistent with what you have found in other sources?
  USEFULNESS Does the information speak to your topic?
    Is your point of view supported by the information?
    Is the information current enough for your purpose?
    Is the information still helpful, regardless of the date?
  STRUCTURE Does the text follow basic rules of grammar, spelling and literary composition?
    Do the icons clearly represent what is intended?
    Are the links relevant and appropriate?

ACTIVITY 1: Using the criteria above, compare the following web sites...

The White House web site, version 1

The White House web site, version 2

ACTIVITY 2: Using the criteria above, compare the following web sites...

Nutrition and Health

The Vegan Page

More People Trying Vegetarian Diets

Dietary Guidelines for Americans

If you are interested in exploring the topic of evaluation and critical thinking further, take a look at this Bibliography on Evaluating Internet Resources.

Most of the above information was modified from the book "Teaching Information Literacy Skills" by Patricia Iannuzzi, Charles T. Mangrum II, and Stephen S. Strichart.

The activities were based on "Teaching Students to Think Critically about Internet Resources" by Andrea Bartelstein and Anne Zald of UWired at the University of Washington Libraries. Permission has been granted to reprint or adapt for academic nonprofit purposes, provided the source is accurately quoted and duly credited.
Original document URL: http://weber.u.

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Virginia Tech University Libraries
Last updated: July 21, 1999
Contact: Nicole Auer