One of the first questions you should ask yourself about information you find on the Web is "why is the information being presented?"
Was the information published to promote a certain viewpoint or opinion?
Advocacy sites (organizational sites built to influence public opinion), editorials (often on news sites), and personal homepages or blogs A blog (weB LOG) is a website in the form of a journal. Blogs are often personal or informal in nature and are maintained using software tools that allow for simple (non-technical) creation and editing of posts. often fit in this category.
It is important to read information from different sides to get a fully informed understanding of an issue. Be careful of information that may present a one-sided or unbalanced view.
Example: SAT essay has anti-history bias
Was the information published to sell products or services?
Commercial sites may provide useful information, but they are not impartial sources.
Example: SAT Writing Section (SAT Essay)
Was the information published to entertain people?
Most of the Web is devoted to entertainment. Be wary of trusting information that is primarily intended to entertain.
Was the information published to inform/provide access to impartial facts?
Some websites are published to provide factual information to the public. These sites often are published by governmental agencies or nonprofit organizations.
Example: New SAT: How the Essay is Scored
Remember, some sites will fit in more than one of these categories (e.g. an entertainment site may be trying to sell something), and some sites may seem to have one purpose, but really be about something else.
What is the purpose of the site?
Would you trust this information?
Are there any clues that something "fishy" might be going on?
(Click here for our explanation.)
This is an example of a hoax site - a site designed to look like it has one purpose (in this case to advocate for an endangered species), but that really has a different purpose (here, to entertain you.) Clues include the fact that the site is part of "Zapato Productions International: Your Source For Conspiracies & Other Diversions" and that one of the FAQ's is "Why are Sasquatch allowed to gather Tree Octopuses?". It's important to careful read the content of any site you are using in your research.
While this hoax site is amusing, not all sites with a hidden purpose are harmless. The site http://www.martinlutherking.org/, for example looks like a impartial source of information on the famous civil rights leader, but is actually maintained by a white nationalist (anti-black) group as a way to push slanted information and discredit Dr. King's legacy.