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Evaluating Authority

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Soka University Japan - Transcend Art and Peace
Created:July 11, 2002
Latest Update: July 21, 2003

E-Mail Icon jeannecurran@habermas.org
takata@uwp.edu

jeanne's version of Arnold as an African Bird. Evaluating the Scholarly Worthiness of Websites

Teaching Essay Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individaul Authors, July 2002.
"Fair use" encouraged.

There is something disconcerting about having so much information at one's fingertips. Is this valid information? Can we trust it? What perspective is it coming from? Is the information biased? Will my teacher accept it if I use it as a source? How can I relate it to the formal texts I'm studying?

The Internet is an extraordinary academic tool. We could not maintain the Dear Habermas Forum without it. But in order to profit from its potential we need to be able to situate the information we gain from it with reasonable accuracy into the context of traditional learning. Some basic methodological tools for evaluation will serve us well:

  • Identify the source of the material.

    • Who author's the site?
      Beware of sites with no attribtion. If the author doesn't clearly identify himself or herself, that weakens your attribution of the site. Imagine telling your teacher: "Oh, I read it somewere on the Web." Academic standards require that you clearly identify the source of statements on which you want to rely. Otherwise none of us can check out their veracity.

      If you have trouble identifying the author, check the URL. You may be able to erase the present file name, enter the rest of the URL, and you may thus discover whose website is involved. The Stanford University Library site gives the following instructions:

      "You could . . . try removing the last part of the address at the end, moving to the left in the URL. For example, if the URL is: http://www-sul.stanford.edu/depts/ssrg/africa/niger.html

      Remove the niger.html, the file name. Press Enter, and you will find the site identified as one on African Amercan Birds: Ceratogymna atrata,
      Last bird in the display group looks so much like Arnold I recognized him. jeanne
      http://diglib1.amnh.org/galleries/watercolors/birds/watercolors_birds.html

    Well, not on July 20, 2003, I didn't. But I did find Arnold Bird, from my old page, and it'll be fun to figure out how it got lost. Play with the Internet. There are some wonderful surprises out there. I found some great pictures of Birds in Ethiopia while I was playing. Go look for them. jeanne