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Evaluating Information on the Internet


  • Authority: Authoritative information is presented by a person or group who is a recognized expert.   A page that is authoritative might be scholarly; a page that is not authoritative is not scholarly.  Signs of authoritative information include the credentials of the author (e.g., a Ph.D.), a sponsoring organization known for its quality work (e.g., the United Nations), and a trusted referring source (e.g., a professor or Library database).
  • Accuracy: It is not always easy to determine whether information on the Internet is accurate, but there are a number of signs to look for:
     
    • Are quotations and facts cited? 
    • Are you able to independently verify information used in the work? 
    • In the case of original research, is the methodology and data set clearly explained? 

A ‘no’ response to any of these questions should make you doubt the accuracy of the information.

  • Bias: Many web sites are too biased to be used for scholarly research.  Sites presenting controversial information without addressing different sides of the issue may be biased.  Sites that are attempting to sell you a product or idea are likely to be biased.  Commercial sites (sites that end in .com) are often biased.  Also, sites making claims that aren’t based on facts or solid arguments may also be biased.
  • Currency:  If you need timely information, you will need to determine how current the information provided on a Web site is.  The date on which information was added to a scholarly site should be clearly indicated, and a site that relies on current data should be updated frequently.  If information on a site was posted years ago or if no date is provided then the information might not be current.    

Articles on Wikipedia are not peer reviewed. It is therefor not considerred a source appropriate for scholarly research. Most professors do not permit its use. Clarify with your professor whether or not it is permitted.

 

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This guide has been adapted from one produced at MIT entitled Academic Integrity at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:  A Handbook for Students.  We are grateful for their permission to use and revise the work for students at the University of Pennsylvania.

Written by Patricia Brennecke, Lecturer in English Language Studies
Edited by Professor Margery Resnick, Chair of the Committee on Discipline, and Joanne Straggas, Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education.  Prepared with the support of Professor Robert P. Redwine, Dean for Undergraduate Education at MIT.

Adapted in Fall 2006 for use by graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania and published as the Handbook for Students, Ethics and Original Research by Professor Barbara Fuchs, Romance Languages, Dr. James B. Lok, Professor of Pathobiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, Linda Meiberg, graduate student and Karen Lawrence, Assistant Director of Education.

This edition edited, amended and produced by:

The University Honor Council and the
Office of Student Conduct
University of Pennsylvania
Fall 2008