Using the Web
Many of the pages of this textbook
point to web pages maintained by others. And, in
your studies you will consult many web pages.
How do we know which pages on the
web can be trusted?
How can I find information on the web?
- I use Google for most of my
searches. I also use Scirus to
help find scientific articles published in journals and elsewhere.
- Then I start looking at pages that appear to be useful, paying some
attention to the URL.
- After I have found a good article, I add it to my bookmark list.
- If the article is available in pdf format, download it and store
it in a folder of articles.
How do we know what material to trust?
- Who produced the material?
- Material produced by an expert tends to be more trustworthy
than material produced by others. But remember, even experts
are biased: "Experts"—from criminologists
to real-estate agents—use their informational advantage
to serve their own agenda: From Freakonomics (2005).
- Is there material at the site describing the author's credentials
- Is the writer anonymous?
- Who uses the material?
- Is it cited by others?
- Is it linked from trustworthy sites?
- Has the site won awards?
- Has the material been reviewed by peers?
- Journal articles on the web from respected journals are peer
- Some journals are better than others. The best are Science and Nature.
- Some web pages are reviewed by portals such as the Digital Library
for Earth System Education DLESE
- Some data sets and information may have been described in published
articles cited by the site.
- Who hosts the page?
- College, university, government, grammar school, commercial,
or personal web site? Some domains such as .edu, .org, and .gov
are good sources of scientific information.
- Does the hosting organization have strong opinions? Most organizations
are biased. This is neither good nor bad. We just need to be aware
of biases. Greenpeace and the US National Marine Fisheries Service
may have differing, but valid viewpoints.
- When was the web page last updated?
- Some sites are many years old.
- Oceanography is changing rapidly, and often more recent sites
have the best information.
- False Friends, web pages that mimic scientific sites.
- They may be hosted by a non-profit organization.
- They appear to be written by an expert.
- They have many references at the end of the article.
- Yet the information is misleading or incorrect.
- Sites offering medical advice, advice on diets or nutrition,
or cures for common diseases sometimes fall into this category.
They are written by medical doctors, they reference obscure journal
articles, and they are hosted by the doctor's organization.
- Consider the controversial topic of chelation therapy to cure
clogged arteries. Compare the information on chelation therapy
reviewed in an article
in the American Heart Journal and a similar article
by the American Heart Association with a bibliography
of papers supporting chelation
therapy by Dr.
Elmer Cranton, Medical Director of Mount Ranier Clinic and
his article on the Theoretical
Mechanism... Who would you believe?
- Beware the Widely Quoted Statistic
- Some statistics are widely quoted by many different
authors, yet they may be incorrect or misleading.
- What is the original source of the statistic?
- Was the original source reliable.
- Consider this statistic:
Children from low-income households
average just 25 hours of shared reading time with their parents
before starting school, compared with 1,000 to 1,700 hours
for their counterparts from middle-income homes.
These oft-repeated numbers originate
in a 1990 book by Marilyn Jager Adams titled, "Beginning
to Read: Thinking And Learning About Print." Ms. Adams
got the 25-hours estimate from a study of 24 children in
22 low-income families. For the middle-income figures, she
extrapolated from the experience of a single child: her then-4-year-old
son, John. She laid out her calculations and sources carefully
over five pages, trying to make clear that she was demonstrating
anecdotally the dramatic difference between the two groups.
In the 17 years since then, at least a half-dozen child-advocacy
groups, including United Way, Kids in Common and Everybody
Wins, have boiled down those five pages into a single sentence,
repeated in various forms, often without attribution to
the original source. As is typical for such numbers, the
child-reading stats have taken on a life of their own through
a game of media telephone, with news articles usually attributing
the numbers to one of these advocacy groups or to various
researchers or foundations that themselves got the numbers
from the Adams book.
For her book, Ms. Adams
drew on a 1986 study by William Teale and colleagues of low-income
families in Southern California. Using his findings about
reading time per child, she extrapolated to their time before
entering school and averaged the total. Prof. Teale, who
now teaches education at the University of Illinois, Chicago,
says his findings couldn't be generalized to the overall
population, nor did he ever make that claim: "We had
way too small a sample."
From Bialik (2007).
Bialik, C. (2007). It seems to exist, but how to measure class gap in
reading? Wall Street Journal: B1.
23 December, 2008