Research Readiness: Identifying Reliable Authorities by Googling —
How can you tell which online information comes from reliable authorities? Anytime you use someone else’s words or ideas in your writing or formal speaking you should be aware who that person is; you can start now investigating the reliability of any sources you are thinking of quoting or paraphrasing.
We like to think that if information is in print, it is reliable. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. People with unjust biases and even those who want to sow hatred find their way into print. In general, works that appear in print go through a much more extensive vetting process than what appears online, but there are so-called vanity presses that will publish pretty much anything if the author will pay the cost. There are also all sorts of periodicals that express slanted—and often conflicting—points of view, some of them offensive to many of us. That’s what comes of freedom of the press.
When you go online, how can you start to weed through a list of results to find reliable authorities? For one thing, you can learn to “read” the list of results you get from Google or other search engines.
Please document the following by taking screen shots and explaining in prose as you work through your research in order to discover the possible credibility of two of the experts from the list.
1. Choose two:
Dr. Robert Folk, a geologist
Dr. Monica Grady, a meteorite specialist
Dr. Michael Persinger, neurologist and geologist
Dr. Joe Nickell, a paranormal investigator
Dr. David M. Jacobs, an historian
Dr. Jack Cohen, a reproductive biologist
Garry Wood, an ambulance driver in Edinburgh, Scotland
2. Take a screen shot of the list of links that appear. Be sure to post this and all other screen shots in your paper. Before you click on a link, examine the first ten to fifteen entries in the resulting list. Yes, you may use Wikipedia as one source for this assignment. Look at each URL and see what you can learn from it. Also notice any other information that might affect your opinion of the source’s reliability or objectivity.
· Are there sources that you immediately trust as reliable? Which ones, and why?
· Are there any that you immediately assume will present a biased perspective? Which ones, and why?
· Are there any that are completely unfamiliar to you? If so, choose two or three and speculate what type of source each might be.
3. Now click on a couple of the sources that you trusted as being reliable. Identify exactly who wrote the document that you have accessed. If you cannot find an author, what does that suggest? If there is an author, search that person’s name and see if you find convincing credentials that support the assumption that he or she is qualified to write on the subject at hand.
4. Do the same with at least two sources that you predicted would be biased. Does further investigation support your assumption?
5. Go to at least one of the sources that were unfamiliar to you. Once you look more closely at the source, do you find any evidence of its reliability or lack thereof? Explain.
Based on your research, do you think the expert is credible in his/her field?
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