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USD Information Literacy Lessons: Page 9

The broad focus of these lessons is understanding sources of information, including examples that can help you learn how to access information sources at USD. Each lesson is dedicated to a specific element of information competency.

Things to Remember About Search Engines, Meta-Search Engines, and Subject Directories

  • They are listings of what is available on the Web.
  • Each search engine accesses only a portion of what is available from the Web.
  • Search engines provide different search features.
  • They do not guarantee the quality (or truth) of information contained in Web sites.
  • Search engines that rank Web sites generally do so on the basis of other criteria than quality.
    Software can't currently be programmed to recognize quality of information.  Search engines rely on indirect indicators of quality.
    Google, Northern Light, and others use link analysis as an indicator of quality.  (The more web sites that link to a given site, the higher its quality must be.)
    One search engine, Inktomi, charges owners of web sites by the size of their listings, then ranks hits by size (largest first).  The size of the listing has no obvious connection with the quality of  the web site's contents.*

Yahoo is not a reliable reference source.**

  • About 80% of its contents are commercial sites.
  • There are no selection criteria for inclusion.
  • The fact that it is well known does not make it a valid reference source.

*Mintz, Anne P.  "Lies, Damned Lies, and the Internet."  In Web of Deception: Misinformation on the Internet.   Ed Anne P. Mintz.  Medford, NJ: Information Today, 2002. xxiv.

**Cohen, Laura. "Yahoo! And the Abdication of Judgment." American Libraries 32 (Jan. 2001):60-62.   


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