Just the Facts, Ma'am: Evaluating Internet Sources of Climate Change Information

by Hannah on 2019-10-04 12:00:00

Climate change has been all over the news lately, and the subject of much debate for years. The internet is full of posts seeming to confirm or disprove climate change, and it's not the only hot-button issue like that. But how can you tell the factual Facebook posts from fiction, the real news from the fake? It's so easy to get overwhelmed! Fortunately, this week's blog post is all about evaluating online information sources. We also have some tips for finding climate change books and articles through the library, and ideas for how to live a more environmentally-friendly life.

Because anyone can publish information on the internet, it’s crucial to develop skills to assist you in evaluating the quality of a web page.  Information specialists have identified six criteria you should apply when evaluating a website: authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, coverage, and appearance.

Authority

  • Is it clear who is responsible for the contents of the page? 
  • Is there a way of verifying the legitimacy of the organization, group, company or individual?
  • Is there any indication of the author's qualifications for writing on a particular topic?
  • Is the information from sources known to be reliable?

Accuracy

  • Are the sources for factual information clearly cited so they can be verified in another source?
  • Is the information free of grammatical, spelling, and other typographical errors?

Objectivity

  • Does the content appear to contain any evidence of bias?
  • Is there a link to a page describing the goals or purpose of the sponsoring organization or company?
  • If there is any advertising on the page, is it clearly differentiated from the informational content?

Currency

  • Are there dates on the page to indicate when the page was written, when the page was first published online, or when the page was last revised?

Coverage

  • Are these topics successfully addressed, with clearly presented arguments and adequate support to substantiate them?
  • Does the work update other sources, substantiate other materials you have read, or add new information?
  • Is the target audience identified and appropriate for your information needs?

Appearance

  • Does the site look well organized?
  • Do the links work?
  • Does the site appear well maintained?

That’s a long list, but the more questions you can respond “yes” to, the more likely it is you’ve found a good source of quality information.

Still not confident in your ability to verify a story? Here are some websites that can help!

Library Resources

Interested in books about climate change? We have tons of books on the subject! Use the filters on the left-hand side of the page to choose the target audience and publication date of these materials, to make sure you get the most up-to-date and relevant content for you. Even with books, it’s important to consider the authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, coverage, and appearance of your information sources.

Your library card also grants you access to plenty of online resources to further your research on many subjects, including climate change. Through BadgerLink, you can: search academic journal articles in Academic Search Premier, browse Encyclopedia Brittanica, consult Climate Wisconsin, use GreenFile to access articles covering all aspects of human impact on the environment, delve into the Science Reference Center, and more!

We get lots of questions about reducing people’s personal impact on the environment, specifically, how to eliminate or reduce single-use plastics. Get started with these books, and never hesitate to contact your friendly local librarians with any questions!