Students often take the use of the internet for granted. Two problems that are prevalent in NHD research are that students do not track the internet sources they use well, and they do not evaluate the reliability of information they find on the internet. Today’s workshop will be broken into two parts. First, there is a short lesson on using an ARS (annotated resource set) to keep track of internet research. Secondly, students must be taught to discern a reliable website from one that is not. Today’s lesson will focus on finding credible websites, and it will teach students some research tricks they might not know.
Begin with a demonstration, if you have adequate class time. If you have limited time, move to the ARS portion of this workshop. Using Google or another search engine, search the word Titanic. Point out to your students that this search found more than 63 million web pages about the Titanic. Show them that many of them are about the 1997 movie Titanic. Many are fan sites for Leo DiCaprio or Kate Winslett.
Now, demonstrate how the search can be narrowed by adding a year. This takes out most of the websites related to the movie, but still leaves more than 7 million websites to sift through. We can narrow this search even further by searching with quotation marks… “1912 Sinking of the Titanic” brings up only 126,000 hits. We can narrow it further by looking for specific details. Searching “Captain Edward Smith Titanic” gives me about 54,000 websites. Finally, demonstrate how searching for images can bring up many primary source documents about the event. Search Titanic primary source documents, and then move to the images page. You will find many primary documents including menus, tickets, photographs, etc.
Using an ARS:
If you have a web page where you communicate with your students, or if you communicate with them via e-mail, you can post or send a simple ARS form. (One can be found here) If you do not use digital communication, never fear! Your students can create an ARS on their own. They simply need to create a document with a 5 column table. Then, they will add the labels Description, Thumbnail, Web Address, Notes, and Primary or Secondary.
Ask students for ideas about how they can keep track of the websites they find and want to use in their project. Then, show them the ARS (annotated resource set). If you have taken a Teaching with Primary Sources course, you are probably already familiar with the ARS. The one offered here has been simplified for student use.
The idea here is to give students a path back to any research sources they have discovered on the internet. This is especially helpful with pictures, video or documents. One of the most important elements, then, is that the students link to the web address when they record it. It is important for students to understand that if they are doing a documentary or a website, there is an expectation for them to notate on each image where they got the picture. For this reason, it is important for them to have a record of where they found each element.
An annotated resource set looks something like this:
Annotated Resource Set
Primary or Secondary
Hot air balloon drawings
· Title: Air-balloons / A. Bell, sculpt.
· Creator(s): Bell, Andrew, 1726-1809, engraver
· Date Created/ Published: [1784?]
A Little Jules Verne
This Library of Congress video is a very early movie about Jules Verne.
Jules Verne: Father of Science Fiction?
No image available
· This article is about whether Jules Verne was really the father of the Science Fiction genre.
· Written by John Derbyshire
Demonstrate for your students how to cut and paste thumbnail images into the ARS, and show them how to link a web address in their document. (Cut and paste the web address into the ARS, right click on the web address and select hyperlink from the dropdown menu).
Please help your students understand that the ARS is not a substitute for taking notes. It is simply a path back to the source.
Evaluating Website Credibility:
Next, ask your students how to decide if a website is reliable. Let them brainstorm some ideas about how to discern a trustworthy website. The “Researching from Internet Sources” handout will be helpful for your students.
Share the CARS checklist with them (It is part of the “Researching from Internet Sources” document). Provide them with digital access or a physical copy of the checklist so they can refer back to it as they do their research. Go over the letters of the acronym:
trustworthy source, author’s credentials, evidence of quality control, known or respected authority, organizational support.
Goal: an authoritative source, a source that supplies some good evidence that allows you to trust it.
up to date, factual, detailed, exact, comprehensive, audience and purpose reflect intentions of completeness and accuracy. Goal: a source that is correct today (not 5 years ago), a source that gives the whole truth.
fair, balanced, objective, reasoned, no conflict of interest, absence of fallacies or slanted tone.
Goal: a source that engages the subject thoughtfully and reasonably, concerned with the truth, not an agenda.
listed sources, contact information, available corroboration, claims supported, documentation supplied.
Goal: a source that provides convincing evidence for the claims made, a source you can triangulate (find at least two other sources that support it).
Practice evaluating a few websites with your class. Here are some examples continuing with last workshop's Abraham Lincoln theme:
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum: http://www.alplm.org/
This is a reliable website.
Credibility: It is credible because we know that the source is a
respected authority in Lincoln scholarship.
Accuracy: A 2014 copyright date can be found on some of the pages, so we know it is relatively up-to-date.
Reasonableness: Looking at the “Under His Hat” collection we see a balanced representation of Lincoln’s life.
Support: Obviously, with 52,000 primary sources available, the website is well supported.
Who 2 Biographies: http://www.who2.com/bio/abraham-lincoln
This website is not as reliable.
Credibility: There is no information about who authored this biography, or even who publishes the website.
Accuracy: Because this biography is so short, it is not terribly accurate.
Reasonableness: The presentation of Lincoln here is not balanced.
Support: There is no primary source documentation provided to
support the claims of the website.
If you wish, you can stop here and let your students begin searching for websites that might be suitable for research. This worksheet that will require them to evaluate three potential websites.
More internet help:
You may wish to go further with this lesson. If you do wish to give your students supplemental instruction in internet research, please see workshop 8B, A Googler’s Guide to National History Day. You might wish to just review these techniques and show them to students as you help them with individual research. If you wish to give this supplement to your students, there is a copy below written for student use.