Once you know who published the Web site and wrote the content, you have to ask, "Why?"
When we create our Web Guides, we usually provide research strategies that caution you to be wary of sites that aren't what they seem. We've come across dozens of Web sites that appear to offer valid information but in fact were created for another purpose.
Some of these we explained in a feature called "Suspicious Sites," that is an ideal tool for learning how to decipher "why" a site was created.
Many Web sites provide so-called information about a health topic, but are published by lawyers looking for medical malpractice clients.
We've uncovered Web sites that appear on the surface to provide good information about
But in each case, their only purpose was to collect your personal information so they could sell it to companies or individuals offering those services.
In a more common example, we recently wrote about a famous woman whose achievements were legitimately disputed. The Maryland Women's Hall of Fame site offered a biography about her but didn't mention the controversy. The stated purpose of the site was to honor women who have made lasting contributions, and apparently it felt that its mission would be compromised if it diluted her contribution by noting the controversy. Yet if you handed in a paper on this woman and did not note the controversy, the omission would probably reduce your grade.
In all these cases, publishing accurate, balanced information was not the primary purpose of the Web site.
Of course, you should use a full list of criteria when evaluating a Web site. But as soon as a Web site loads on your computer, ask yourself "who," and then "why"?
Then comes when.
Thank you for reading,