Older News  » Sorting fact from fiction

Last updated 9:28 AM on 11 October 2011

You can't always trust what you read when researching information for assignments. Here are ways your child can tell a good website from a bad one.

With so much information on the web and no-one responsible for fact checking, kids need to look out for:

  • bias and hidden agendas
  • factual errors
  • outdated information
  • information which is country-specific
  • commercially motivated information.

Play the detective

The ability to question information is a vital tool for all school kids.

People can publish something that looks great but is full of factual errors. And websites, like any publication, can reflect a bias.

Have a conversation with your child about the sites they are accessing. You could ask questions, such as "Can we find out who wrote this information?", "Does the website tell us anything about who they are?" and "Are they really an expert in this area of information?".

Start with 'My Library'

'My Library' is a NSW public schools' tool your child can access from any computer via the NSW Department of Education and Communities portal. It links into their school library catalogue and offers resources selected by teacher librarians and curriculum experts across NSW.

The QUICK guide

The quality information checklist or QUICK – available through the My Library Links4Learning - is a useful guide to finding good information on the internet.

Is it clear who has written the information?

Find out about the author by searching their name to discover if they are a recognised expert and what their motivation is for creating the information.

Can the information be checked?

If an article refers to experts or research, the quote should link to the original source, so you can read it yourself. Failing that, copy and paste the quote, the expert's name or the name of the study into your search engine and see if you can verify it.

When was the site produced?

In theory, the web should always be more up-to-date than books because it can be changed instantly and constantly. That's not always the case. Look for dates on websites to help determine how current the information is. Also, on Google you can type your search keywords and click on 'News' in the top left. That will track down current news stories about your topic.

Is the information biased in any way?

Does the information address conflicting evidence or opinions? Do you see a political or commercial motive? Who do they offer links to? Do they support their opinions with links to expert evidence?

Find more homework and study help on the School A to Z website.