Website Credibility

Why it is important that we evaluate credibility of websites

Information on the internet is not regulated for quality or accuracy, therefore it is difficult to determine the authenticity of a websites author, and if they are listed, equally difficult to ascertain if they are representing themselves honestly. Students look up sources online as a way to support an argument or subject they are learning about, and making sure that source is credible directly impacts the quality of knowledge and information they are receiving. As a student, if I am to go and gather my research on a non-credible website, the information is not guaranteed to be accurate, and I would be misinformed about a subject I am trying to gather correct data on. Using the information provided in Fogg’s research, as well as my own research on the subject, I can use tools such as identifying the author, looking for timestamps, examining the URL, and seeing if the information provided is valid and well researched. There are many guides online that provide simple checklists for students to go through and try and verify the credibility of online sources. I found that many reputable universities had a page advising students of how to discern credibility on webpages, as most of my search results came back as educational institutions.

Why I think Wikipedia is not allowed as a reference

Tying back to the idea of credibility, the main factor of a sources credibility comes from the legitimacy of the author and website hosting that page. Wikipedia is a website which can be edited by anybody, and as such the credibility of the author is impossible to ascertain. As well as this, Wikipedia itself has a disclaimer that some articles may contain errors and that the user should not use wikipedia as a primary source, or to make critical decisions. Because Wikipedia is essentially community run, it is more of a resource for people to share opinions on a topic, rather than a website with legitimate information. While information may be factual, there is no credibility in the authorship on Wikipedia, and therefore any information on it can’t be confirmed as valid or credible. If the author isn’t credible, than neither is the information. I think this is why Universities don’t allow Students to reference Wikipedia, because they are referencing an anonymous authors opinion on a community run website. It seems to be roughly the equivalent of referencing a post on a forum.

Anticipated issues that may affect the users’ perceived Web credibility in future (in relation to non-profit organisations):

  • The site is rarely updated with new content, and so to a user this website seems like a less credible representation of the organisation running it.
  • A site has a link, or links, that don’t work. It makes navigating or following links to relevant information difficult for the user, and definitely lowers credibility.
  • If a site has poorly worded sentences or typographical errors, it will cause the user to think of the website as non-professional or not very credible.
  • When the site is temporarily unavailable at unexpected times, it can relay an inconsistency which damages possible future credibility.
  • If the sites domain name doesn’t match the name of the non-profit organisation, it may show instability within the organisation, and make the user question if this website was previously a different, less credible website.
  • If a non-profit organisation is scattered with ads, it takes away from the authenticity of the page. It appears that even though they are stating that they are informing you about a specific topic or organisation, they are monetising themselves with affiliations to pop-ups and ads.

Georgetown University Library. Evaluating Internet Resources. Retrieved May 31, 2017, http://www.library.georgetown.edu/tutorials/research-guides/evaluating-internet-content

The University of Edinburgh.(2017, May 23) How to evaluate website content. Retrieved May 31, 2017, http://www.library.georgetown.edu/tutorials/research-guides/evaluating-internet-content

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