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Become an Internet Detective

Common mistakes made by students:


They rely on Internet searches for their research and ignore
other key sources
They don't critically evaluate the quality of the information
they find
They copy information from the Internet and
don't acknowledge their sources

The Good
The good news is that many sources of authoritative research information now publish on the
Internet.
In the academic world it is considered very important that new research builds upon past research
and that the quality of information is assured. There are formal processes to facilitate this, and it's
essential you understand these if you are to succeed at university.
Some of the information sources that are traditionally used to support academic research can
include ...
1. Peer review/refereeing
2. Scholarly Journals
3. Electronic journals
4. Library eJournal services
5. eJournal publishers
6. ePrints
7. Bibliographic databases
8. Academic web directories
9. Library web sites

Source: http://www.vtstutorials.ac.uk/detective.html (Sept. 24, 2014)

The Bad
The bad news is that the Internet also leads to a lot of information that is completely
inappropriate for your research, and it takes time and skill to weed this out.
As things stand the Internet has no standard system of quality control so it's important to be
careful about which information you use and not to trust everything you read.
Think about it - the Internet links millions of computers:
Anyone can put something on the Internet - an amateur or
an expert
From anywhere in the World - be it the United Kingdom
or Uruguay
They can say anything they like - be it true or false
And leave it there as long as they like - even if it goes out of date
Or change it without warning - perhaps even remove it completely
There is a danger that the information you find on the Internet will:
Be from a source that is unreliable, lacking in authority or credibility
Have content that is invalid, inaccurate, out-of-date
Not be what it seems!

The Ugly
At worst the Internet can lead you to misinformation that could land you in real trouble.
Unfortunately there are a lot of sharks on the Internet - people who want to trick you, misinform
you, deceive you and defraud you. Some web sites and emails can be real crime scenes.
Be skeptical, not paranoid!
This activity will highlight some classic cases of misinformation on the Internet:
Internet hoaxes,
o click on the link to See an example spoof
What are the URLs of the sites used for this example?
http://www.wto.org/
http://www.gatt.org/
Record some observations comparing the Official site with the Spoof
Presumably, due to time passed, the websites dont look the same anymore.
The content is worded similarly, but the actual headlines on the spoof are completely fictional.

o Click on the link to See an example parody site


What are the URLs of the sites used for this example?
http://www.whirledbank.org
Source: http://www.vtstutorials.ac.uk/detective.html (Sept. 24, 2014)

http://www.worldbank.org
Record some observations comparing the Official site with the Parody
Again, likely a result of not being updated, the two sites do not look alike.
However, the articles on the parody website look and sound very official, but
contain many backhanded slams at the proposed incompetence of the World
Bank.

Urban legends
o What is an Urban Legend?
Stories or rumours spread from person to person, usually by word of mouth, but now
spread through spam emails and the internet generally.
o Click on the link See some examples of urban legends
What are some common topics for urban legends?
1. Crime Warnings
2. Free Offers
3. Computer Virus Warnings

Scams and Frauds


o How does the Office of Fair Trading describe SCAMS:
Scheming
Crafty
Aggressive
Malicious

o Click on the link See some examples of scams


List 3 examples of Internet scams.
1. Nigerian 419 Fraud
2. Lotteries and Prize Draws
3. Phishing

Hate Sites
o What is a hate site?
They list hateful and negative info about things and people.

Source: http://www.vtstutorials.ac.uk/detective.html (Sept. 24, 2014)

How do you spot the fakes?


A number of web sites exist to expose fake sites and frauds.
If you are unsure if a site is genuine then check these sites to see if it is listed there as a fake. A
quick search here could save you a lot of embarrassment!
List the sites provided to help you check out if a site is fake or not.
1. http://www.snopes.com/
2. http://www.oft.gov.uk/oft_at_work/consumer_initiatives/scams/
3. http://www.scambusters.com/

Can you find another one? https://www.scamwarners.com/


You need to develop some healthy skepticism when using the Internet for research but there's no
need to get paranoid - we've already seen that there's plenty of good stuff out there too. OK, let's get
ugly........
Take the quiz and see if you have earned your badge as an Internet Detective.
- I did!

When using the Internet as a source of information and research remember to consider.

WHO?

Who is the author?


Who is the publisher?
Who sponsored or funded the site?
Do you recognize them as an authoritative source?
What are their credentials, qualifications, background and experience?
Has the information been edited or peer reviewed?
Are the sources trustworthy?
What are their motives for publishing the information?
What standpoint do they take: Impartial? Biased?
Do other Internet sources that you trust link to this site?

WHAT?
Are the arguments and conclusions valid i.e. well founded in logic or truth?
Does the author back up any claims with reliable third-party support (i.e. citations,
references, research data and source material?
Is there a balanced argument or is it one-sided?

Source: http://www.vtstutorials.ac.uk/detective.html (Sept. 24, 2014)

Is the information accurate: or can you spot errors (i.e. typographical errors or
broken links).
Is the information current? Is there a "last-updated" date?
Is the coverage sufficient? Does it include all the aspects of the subject that you need in
enough breadth or depth?
Is the level of the site appropriate? Does it treat the subject at the level you require or is it
an introductory guide that is too basic?
Is it complete - is it available in full or has it been abridged?
Is it a commentary or an original text? A primary or secondary source?
Is it fact or opinion?
Are there advertisements everywhere - that might make you question the motives of the
online publication?

WHERE?
Where am I? Where is this site located- in which country and on who's computer?
How did I get here? Did I reach this site from an authoritative source?
Am I in the middle of a site or at the front page? Is this the most relevant part of the
site for me to be using?

Source: http://www.vtstutorials.ac.uk/detective.html (Sept. 24, 2014)