Reliable sources of information
The internet is a valuable source of information. However, there’s so much material online it’s difficult to know what to trust. So where do you begin? These tips will help you to find what you’re looking for and judge whether to trust it.
- The first websites that appear in a search list may not be the most useful or the most reliable. For example, the top results in a search list are often paid advertisements. Be prepared to scroll through the first page or two of results to find what you’re looking for.
- Use search terms carefully.
- Be concise: If you want to find the names of charities working with children in India search for India children’s charities.
- Be precise: Quotation marks narrow your search to a precise term. For example, “India poverty statistics” will search only for statistics about poverty in India.
- Broaden it out: If you want to broaden your search use a + sign. For example, India+poverty+statistics will search for all results about India, poverty and statistics.
- The ending of a website gives clues about the organisation behind it:
- .com - usually a company or business
- .org - usually a not-for-profit organisation
- .gov - a government department
- .ac or .sch - a university or a school
- .eu - a European Institution or a European project
- Identify the author: Is the author named on the website? Does she/he work for a trustworthy organisation? Is the author criticised on other websites? Be careful if the author is anonymous or not recognised by other experts on the topic.
- Check when the website was published. Is the website up-to-date? Do the links on the website work? Broken links suggest an out-of-date website. Be careful not to quote out-of-date facts and statistics as if they are new.
- Examine the style of language. Does the website use biased or one-sided language? Does it present facts or opinions? Check for language that gives you either a positive or negative feeling about a topic, but which you can’t be confident is true or false. Remember that a blog is almost always a personal opinion. It may be useful but it may not be balanced.
- Does the website look official and professional? Does the website have a long url? Are there pop-up advertisements? Are there ugly graphics, poor layout or spelling errors? These are all signs of an unofficial website that may not be reliable.
Testing and verifying websites
Click on each website and spend 2 or three minutes deciding how useful it is in helping you to find up-to-date reliable information about education and children in India.
Give each website a score out of five. Enter your score in the box.
After you have entered your score the pop up will give you more information about the website (feature only available online). Does this information persuade you to change your score?
What made you decide the score you gave each website? Make a list of all the different issues you thought about and refer to it when you do online research in the future.
Photographs and the whole picture
Just like words, photographs shape our ideas and opinions. But a picture doesn’t always tell the whole story. How we ‘see’ photographs are similar to how we ‘read’ words.
Look at these photographs and think about what they tell you about how to judge evidence. Both photographs are of Mohamad and were taken in the same place on the same day.
Mohamad aged 12 is a keen gardener. (Sam Tarling/Oxfam)
Where is Mohamad? Is he in Europe or on another continent? What made you decide?
What do you think is happening outside the photo’s frame? What’s happening beyond what you can see in the photo? What made you decide?
What happened just before the photo was taken and what might happen straight afterwards? What made you decide?
What other questions would you like to ask about Mohamad? Does the photo help you to answer them?
Mohamad, aged 12, lives in a refugee settlement in Lebanon and has created a garden, full of vegetables. Gardening brings him some happiness, but life as a refugee has been tough. He really misses his friend from home. (Sam Tarling/Oxfam)
Look back at your answers to the questions about Photograph 1. Does Photograph 2 help you to answer the questions more accurately? Have your ideas about Mohamad changed after seeing Photograph 2?
What has the greatest impact on shaping what you know about Mohamad; the photograph or the caption? What do you learn from this exercise about the skills and knowledge you need to research accurate and reliable information?