I was talking with some students at Northwestern about blogs, and the question of trustworthiness and accuracy arose, particularly if one is planning to site a blog in a research paper. After thinking about it for a few minutes, I suggested thinking about the following:
- Who is the author (do they sign their material)?
- Are they credentialed?
- Are they publishing on behalf of another organization (giving them more credibility)?
- Does someone else say they are good (part of a publishing collective)?
- Are they referenced by other people?
- Is it well-written? (Crummy writing is a dead giveaway.)
Essentially, the criteria for quality and trustworthiness is the same for any source. Just because it is in the newspaper or encyclopedia doesn't make it true, and the same goes for the web.
Coincidentally, my librarian wife passed along Beyond Algorithms: A Librarian's Guide to Finding Web Sites You Can Trust from Google's current Newsletter for Librarians:
Okay, so your favorite search engine has turned up thousands of web sites on the topic of your choosing. Which ones should you trust?
Their main criteria? Availability, Credibility, Authorship, External Links and Legality.