How to Evaluate a Website for Accuracy and Bias
In many schools, students learn the research process beginning in 3rd grade. For my generation, this meant making a trip to the local library, learning how to use an encyclopedia, finding non-fiction resources that were books, and then pulling ideas from these physical resources to put together the assignment.
Today, research is very different and much and much of what is done is conducted online. It is important for your child to be able to determine what websites are good to use for research. This process can be very daunting with so much written online that is at our fingertips. Here are a few tips to teach your child on how to evaluate a website.
Look at the URL
Typically teachers do not allow students to use wikis, blogs, or other possibly bias or inaccurate resources. Have your child look at the URL, or the website address, to see if it contains wiki or blog in the title, if it does, this wouldn’t be a good resource for a research project.
Look for Popular Websites
Have your child look for popular websites for children that they are familiar with like Scholastic, Times for Kids, or National Geographic for Kids. If your child is doing a report about monkeys, in the search engine type in “monkeys national geographic for kids” and they will get many trusted results that they can build their research upon.
Look at the Website in More Detail
If they perform a general search on a topic, they should read the descriptions of the results and pick the one that sounds like what they need for their assignment. Then, have them look at the website in more detail for the copyright date, which is typically at the bottom of the site, and who created the site.
Check at Least Two Sources
If the information in a site doesn’t seem correct or they are unfamiliar with the topic, they should then check to see if they could find the same information on at least two other resources. This will help them to verify if a fact is correct. Even if a website “looks” professional, it may not be accurate. Here is a silly example that is used by many teachers to teach the concept of evaluating websites.
It is highly suggested that you should also tell your child that if they are in doubt about how to best research a topic or unsure about a website, they can ask an adult for help, whether it is a parent or their teacher. Learning to evaluate resources, especially websites, is challenging even for high school and college students. To be successful at this skill, your elementary-aged will need your support and guidance.