info hwyWhen I’m trying to think of a topic for my blog, I start researching by perusing the AARP website at http://www.aarp.org.  Generally, this is not one of my top sites. I am more of a yahoo news, LinkedIn, weather.com and occasional Facebook surfer (OK and Amazon too).

At AARP, I saw topics that I expected: health, work and retirement, caregiving, social security and Medicare.  These topics were generally informational with articles such as: Social Security Calculator: When Should You Claim Your Benefits; Sign Up for Medicare During Your Own Enrollment Period; and How to Retire the Cheapskate Way.

However, what intrigued me was all the other stuff on the website: the unexpected information. There were sections on food (with recipes), travel (including affordable getaways and a virtual travel agent), games (both fun and brain games) and tools for job searching.

This got me to thinking about the vastness of the information available on the web and how as a daughter and daughter-in-law, I could help my family members find the information that they needed making sure that it is the most reliable information. So I did some research and here are the suggestions that I will be passing along to my family on how to check the credibility if the information.

  1. What is the purpose of the page? Why is this information being posted–as information, as a public service, as a news source, as a research tool for academics, as a personal ax to grind, or as a way to gain attention?
  2. Are there obvious reasons for bias? If the page is presented by a tobacco company consortium, you should be suspicious of its reports on the addictiveness of nicotine. Is there any advertising? If the page is sponsored by Acme Track Shoes, you should be suspicious of its claims for Acme track shoes’ performance.
  3. Observe the URL. What is the site’s domain? Think of this as “decoding” the URL, or Internet address.The origination of the site canprovide indications of the site’s mission or purpose. The most common domains are:
    • .org – An advocacy web site, such as a not-for-profit organization.
    • .com – A business or commercial site.
    • .net – A site from a network organization or an Internet service provider.;
    • .edu – A site affiliated with a higher education institution.
    • .gov – A federal government site.
    • .il.us –  A state government site, this may also include public schools and community colleges.
    • .uk (United Kingdom) – A site originating in another country (as indicated by the 2 letter code).
    • ~  – The tilde usually indicates a personal page.
  4. Is the page current? This is both an indicator of the timeliness of the information and whether or not the page is actively maintained.
    • Is the information provided current?
    • When was the page created?
    • Are dates included for the last update or modification of the page?
    • Are the links current and functional?
  5. Be skeptical. Things that sound too good to be true often are. You want current, unbiased information

Our Guest Blogger this week is Amanda W. Scarbrough, PhD, MHSA, Manager, Operational Planning and Projects, Texas AHEC East, Office of the Provost, University of Texas Medical Branch.

Join us for a real-time discussion about the rather grave question raised by this essay on Tuesday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room: http://tinyurl.com/cjfx9ag.