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SCIENCE ON THE INTERNET: A New Information Age

In the past, students researching a science topic would typically begin their research by visiting a library to use printed reference materials, such as encyclopedias. Today, most students research topics by using a computer and searching for information on the Internet.

The Internet can provide students with a wealth of information. But which Web sites have accurate information, and which Web sites do not?

Checking Web Addresses

Students should use the Web address, or URL, to establish the Web site's credibility. Usually, the domain name can suggest who has published the Web site. Web sites can be published by governmental agencies (ends in "dot gov" or .gov), by educational institutions (ends in "dot edu" or .edu), by organizations (ends in "dot org" or .org), or by commercial businesses (ends in "dot com" or .com).

Government Web sites are usually reliable. Examples of credible governmental Web sites are the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). University and medical school sites are also reliable sources of information. Many organizations that research and teach the public about specific diseases and conditions can also provide reliable information. Examples of such organizations are the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association.

Evaluating Web Sites

The credibility of the author of the Web site should also be checked. Make sure the author is not trying to sell anything and is established in his or her field. For example, a health Web site's author should be a medical professional.

It is also important to check the date that the information was posted on the Web to ensure that the information is current. Also, the Web site should provide references from valid sources, such as scientific journals or government publications.

Finally, the student should always double-check information between several reliable Web sites. If two or three reliable sites provide the same information, the student can feel confident in using that information.

Web Sites for Students

The Internet Connect boxes in this textbook have all been reviewed by professionals at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). Students can trust that these sites are reliable sources for science- or health-related topics.

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1. Which types of Web addresses are the most reliable?

2. List four important features to evaluate when using a Web site for research.

3. Supporting Reasoned Opinions Why do you think a Web site that is advertising a product may not offer accurate information?

The Internet can provide a wealth of scientific information for a report, but the information may not always be credible or accurate. You can use the methods above to check the accuracy and credibility of your sources.

The Internet can provide a wealth of scientific information for a report, but the information may not always be credible or accurate. You can use the methods above to check the accuracy and credibility of your sources.

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