In this Information Age, it is important to pay attention to issues of information
literacy in traditional, media, and computing arenas. I use the term information
literacy to mean the ability of people to:
- know when they need information
- find information
- evaluate information
- process information
- use information to make appropriate decisions in their lives
The Internet has added a new dimension to traditional information literacy
issues - especially in the exploding growth of the World Wide Web. Nearly
a mix between all other media, the Web democratizes information ownership,
provision, and retrieval. The federal government is leading the way in
publishing its vast array of information on the Web. On many campuses every
student may publish a webpage.
The Web allows us to speak directly to the purveyors of information in every
imaginable field. Few reference librarians, teachers, publishers, or other
mediating forces stand between us and information on the Internet, and specifically,
the Web. While this does have great advantages in expanding our information
base and providing more accurate and timely information at the "click of a mouse,"
it also means, perhaps, more intellectual effort on the part of the information
consumer to develop valuable critical thinking skills and to evaluate the sources,
quality, and quantity of that information. It also means serious attention
should be paid to intellectual property and appropriate use issues.
The Web is not a huge book written by multiple authors. There is
no definitive table of contents for the Web and no definitive index. To
some it seems more like a giant reference collection.
While it is true that many fine reference materials are available on the
Web, it is not an encyclopedia. Encyclopedias have subject experts writing
refereed articles that pass through editors and style guides before publication.
The Web has these same experts, and many non-experts, creating non-refereed
Web pages on a vast array of topics at a vast range of quality and
depth. Some people consider the Web to be a digital library full of
materials of varying quality and format.
The Web is not one large digital library. Libraries have trained
professionals who carefully evaluate, select, organize, and index
from credible sources.
The Web IS an electronic repository for books, data
libraries, AND any disparate piece of text, graphic, or sound byte
that someone chose to put online. And some of it is inaccurate, biased,
out-of-date, shallow, and inappropriate for academic use.
In evaluating information on the Internet, one should consider many of the same
elements that would be considered when selecting resource material in other formats,
and a new one: permanence. As when judging any kind of publication, much is
subjective. However, keeping the following elements in mind will assist users to
identify resources of value to meet their information needs.
- - Scope
- - Authority and Bias
- - Accuracy
- - Timeliness
- - Permanence
- - Value Added Features
- - Presentation
Citing Sources Using the MLA Handbook
Citing Sources Using the APA Style Manual
Citing Sources Using the Chicago/Turabian Style: Notes System
Citing Sources Using the Chicago/Turabian Style: In-Text
Parenthetical Method (Author-Date)
Other resources for information literacy and
Web site evaluation. Includes a link to the University of Maryland
Libraries one-pager on Evaluating Internet Resources.
Originally published May 1996 by Lida L. Larsen,
Assistant Director, Collegial Relations and Information
Office of Information Technology, University of Maryland,
College Park. Revised April 2006. Copyright Protected
Questions, comments, and suggestions can be sent