Website evaluation

A Better Way to Evaluate Online Information

Are you looking to up your game in the evaluation of online information? Bestselling author John Green wants to help!

Misinformation, disinformation, fake news, and conspiracies have become so common that we stumble across these all the time in our web searches and in our news feeds. And it’s getting harder and harder to evaluate the information that we find. Really bad information is often presented in a professional looking manner with a great looking list of references. Those old checklists just don’t work anymore.

What we really need to do is find out who is behind the information and why they want us to see it. A great way to do this is to leave the webpage we’re on, open a new tab, and google the person or organization presenting the information. Instead of reading vertically, up and down the page we found, we need to read laterally, across the web, to find out what other people have to say about the presenter.

Here’s where John Green comes into the picture. His Crash Course YouTube series has produced a collection in collaboration with researchers at Stanford University to help us learn more about how misinformation is spread and to demonstrate how to use lateral reading skills to evaluate online information. The videos are really engaging and really helpful.

Check out the first Navigating Digital Information video below. As always, the MVCC Library has lots of helpful information as well. Click here for a sample.

Coronavirus Scams

The Coronavirus outbreak has resulted in an over-abundance of information. Stories are coming at us at a rapid pace, from all different directions. This makes it especially difficult to know what is accurate and what is false. Scammers are out there trying to take advantage of this vulnerability and of people’s fears.

Newsguard has identified 100+ websites from the US and many other countries that publish false information, and to make matters worse, these websites are getting a lot traction on social media.

There are three major types of misinformation that we need to aware of:

  • False claims about the origin of the disease
  • Downplaying the seriousness of the disease
  • Phony cures

To be on guard against misinformation, it is always a good idea to examine the source.

  • Who wrote the information? What can you find out about the source by googling them?
  • What is their motivation? Is their real goal to sell a product, or ads, or to drive internet traffic?
  • Do other sources agree with the information?
  • How current is the information? Currency is always important, but now, with information changing so rapidly, it’s more important than ever.

To help you even more, here are some reputable websites set up to help combat coronavirus scams and misinformation:

Mythbusters from the World Health Organization

FTC Coronavirus Scams

NIH Coronavirus Situation Summary

The MVCC Library is here to help as well. Use our Ask a Librarian page to contact us with whatever questions you might have.

Stay safe!

New Library of Congress Website for “Constitution Annotated”

September 17th is Constitution Day, a day commemorating the signing of the Constitution on September 17, 1787. In conjunction with this, the Library of Congress has launched a new website “mak[ing] the 3,000 pages of the Constitution Annotated fully searchable and accessible for the first time to online audiences – including Congress, legal scholars, law students and anyone interested in U.S. constitutional law.” (New Website Makes the U.S. Constitution Searchable with Supreme Court Interpretations Throughout History: https://www.loc.gov/item/prn-19-090?loclr=ealn)

So what is the Constitution Annotated you ask? “… known officially as the Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation–[it] has served as the official record of the U.S. Constitution. Prepared by attorneys in the American Law Division of the Library’s Congressional Research Service, it explains in layman’s terms the Constitution’s origins, how it was crafted and how every provision in the Constitution has been interpreted throughout history.”

Starting at the Home page, click on “Browse” in the top right-hand corner.
You’re taken to this page where you can browse the Preamble, Articles, & Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Then, if you click on “Nineteenth Amendment” for example, you’ll be taken to this page. To see the explanation in “layman’s terms” you would click on the highlighted portion above: “Amdt19.S1.1  Women’s Suffrage”
Which results in this page, the page prepared by attorneys in the American Law Division of the Library’s Congressional Research Service, complete with footnotes at the bottom.

So, check out the new website, Constitution Annotated: Analysis and Interpretation of the U.S. Constitution https://constitution.congress.gov/. Could be easier than carrying the pocket Constitution!

Tips And Tricks – Get Good information every time!!

The MVCC library is designed to be your information center but there may be times when you can’t make it to campus. When that happens the library’s website is the perfect place to get started on your research.

If you can’t get what you need on our website you might need to use other websites. Anyone can put anything on the internet and sometimes information looks more credible at first glance than it is on closer inspection. Most web content is posted without any form of review for accuracy or reliability, so it is up to you to make sure that the online information you find is credible. Ask yourself, “Is this source credible?” every time you choose a web source. This is especially true of sources with no author or organizational affiliation. You will likely have to navigate to the homepage of the site to judge its credibility.

Some examples of bad sites that look good are: History of the Fisher-Price Airplane, and Coalition to Ban DHMO Dihydrogen Monoxide. Take a look and see if you can figure out what’s wrong with them.

Here are few tips to make sure you get good information. Ask yourself:

Authority – Are the author and sponsor identified? Is the author qualified? Is the sponsor identified and reputable?

Dates – Does the site tell when it was last updated? Is the information current? For many disciplines, the currency of information is vital.

Accuracy – Is the information given reliable & error free?

Bias – What is the site’s objective? Is it designed to sway opinion? Is it advertising something?

Citations – Does the site say where it got its information?

Remember, if you aren’t sure you can always ask a librarian.

Happy Researching!

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