The Chaucer Pedagogy Page
Online Assistance
for Teachers and Students
of Chaucer and the Later Middle Ages
Daniel T. Kline | U. of Alaska Anchorage  
Chaucer Pedagogy | Electronic Canterbury Tales
Assessing Electronic Sources
The World-Wide Web (WWW) and other Internet resources offer the student researcher a wonderful variety of materials to investigate, but like any other source, print or electronic, WWW materials must be evaluated before they are incorporated into a research project and properly documented when they are included.
The quality and usefulness of an electronic source must be assessed in the same way as print or other sources, and student researchers must evaluate both the page and its content for evidence of the author or compiler's assumptions, biases, and sources. Keep a few guidelines in mind:
Association Is the web page associated with a respectable organization, like a university or professional society, or does it appear to be a personal web page? Personal web pages are often useful, and well-known organizations are not immune from pronounced bias, but it's important to distinguish informed and reasoned opinion from polemical and propagandistic writing.
Authorship Does the web page list its authors or compilers; are they accessible through the site via email; and does the page fully and professionally acknowledge its own sources (both print and electronic)? Generally speaking, more conscientious web authors will acknowledge their intellectual debts clearly.
Content Is the content sensible and balanced, thorough and accurate? Does it seem skewed to any particular perspective? Is the tone of the presentation measured and balanced? Always assess the value of a web site's content as you would any other source.
Currency Has the site been updated recently and does it evidence consistent revision or does it look to be outdated and untended? A seriously out-of-date web page (say, a year or so) has probably been superseded by something more current.
Design & Execution Is the page well designed and easily navigated? Is the page free of noticeable errors in spelling, etc.? Good design does not necessarily equate to good content or vice versa, but poor execution might indicate other lapses in content.
Links Does the page link to other reputable sites and do other reputable sites link to it? Likewise, are the links current? Or is the page filled with advertising banners and other distracting material?  The links included in a page can indicate a great deal about the page's value and the compiler's purposes.
Outside Recognition Has the page been recognized by other reputable organizations or received their "seals of approval," like "Top 1000 Web Sites" or "Top 5% of Web Sites"? Generally, better sites are quickly recognized by other Internet users, and a number of groups are now monitoring and evaluating the usefulness of individual web sites.
Several excellent websites feature important critical discussion of the promise and peril of Internet research:

Evaluating Web Resources, by Jan Alexander and Marsha Tate, Widener University.

Chaucer Pedagogy  | Electronic Canterbury Tales

Copyright 1998-2006 Daniel T. Kline & The Kankedort Page All rights reserved.

This page was last revised on 10.02.06.