Evaluation of Resources

One subject upon which researchers tended to agree is that high school students are generally lacking in the skills needed to successfully evaluate the merits of digital resources freely available on the World Wide Web (e.g. Lorenzen 2001; Julien and Barker 2009). Students demonstrated no real understanding of standard evaluation criteria (Julien and Barker 2009), and it was found in one study that students assumed that the search engines they were using had already vetted and approved the websites being returned in their results (Lorenzen 2001).

Several evaluation techniques were generally found to be employed by high school students during their research. There was a general understanding that information from websites run by institutions or universities was valued and found to be reputable and reliable (Chung and Neuman 2007; Julien and Barker 2009). Some students, however, erroneously identified that information from websites ending in .com or .org would be reliable (Lorenzen 2001). Some students compared multiple sources for accuracy, and noted when references were provided (Julien and Barker 2009). Relevance was determined in a number of ways, including how well the question was answered (Julien and Barker 2009), and whether or not the information found supported the opinion of the student (Chung and Neuman 2007). Websites were viewed positively that had valuable content and links to other useful websites (Lorenzen 2007), while those websites that did not have enough material, had too much material, did not cover the material in great enough depth, or contained irrelevant or inaccurate information were deemed as unsatisfactory (Shenton 2008). Students also judged the value of websites by their physical appearance, and considered those without pictures as “boring” or “not very useful” (Jacobson and Ignacio 1997, “Encyclopedia Guide”).