This week, as we work on our Argumentative Writing Unit, we are currently preparing to locate evidence on the Internet. Before we can find appropriate evidence, we need to learn how to determine which websites are credible and reliable.
As a pretest, I gave all of my students a handout of Google search results screenshot. I asked them which links they would click on, given our specific topic and purpose. A large percentage of the students chose the first link simply because it was the first link – not considering that the 2nd or 3rd link were actually a better fit. Then, I sent my students to a website and asked them if it was a credible website. The majority of them wrote something like, “yes, because it has good information and facts.” It was then that I knew we needed a conversation on determining the credibility of websites.
Through our class discussion, I heard the same ideas over and over again – blogs and wikipedia are bad news. I fundamentally disagree with these statements, and I have been working on deconstructing this illogic and convincing my students otherwise. Wikipedia used to be considered a highly unreliable source. However, each page now has a list of references and self-appointed curators who monitor the page. While I would not use Wikipedia as a direct source in a paper, I would use it as a starting point to familiarize myself with a topic, then follow the source/links at the bottom for more direct information. Blogs can also be reliable, if written by an expert in the field and/or if it includes credible citations and resources. UN-teaching these Internet myths has been a real challenge with my students.
Below is a list of ideas we generated as a class to decide if a website is credible. There is never a clear black/white answer. It is best to consider all of these ideas together, then make an educated guess as to whether a site is trustworthy enough to include references in your writing.
If you’d like your own copy, you can download the FREE poster here. If you have any comments on this poster – ideas for improvement, or ideas we forgot – please add your thoughts in the comments! Thanks!