The importance of evaluating information online

Person using a tabletWhen you use information that you have found online, you must think about whether that information is true and if it came from a reliable source. Information you find online may not always be accurate or up to date.

Here are a few tips for determining the credibility of a website:

Author - Anyone can publish information on the Internet, without any qualifications or expertise in a subject. It is therefore important to check the website you are viewing for any author or company information. Credible websites will also provide their contact details, such as an address and telephone number.

Check the credentials of the author:

  • Is the author an expert in the subject?
  • Is the author associated with a reputable organisation?
  • Is the author likely to bias the information, based on his or her own views?

Referencing - You should check that the information contains references to sources of the information, so that it can be verified by checking if the information is showing on more than one website. Accurate information about any subject should be on more than one website.

Official websites, such as those run by governments or world organisations, are usually a good source of reliable information. It is always worth checking the content of official websites before you search other websites for information.

Forums or blogs are usually based on opinion and you should take care when using information of this type. Similarly, articles stored on public sites, such as ‘wiki’ sites, are created by the general public and may not be completely accurate.

Up-to-date content - It is always important to check that the information is up-to-date. Checking that information is up-to-date avoids using old or incorrect information. To check whether the information on the page you are viewing is recent, look for a date or ‘last updated’ date somewhere on the page. This shows when the author added the information to the web page.