Despite the massive popularity of social media, online videos, and multi-player online games, the number of web users searching for reference material online still dominates the internet landscape. According to a May 2013 survey, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 91% of adult web users utilize the internet to find online information. This makes searching for online reference materials the number one internet activity among American adults.
When it comes to looking for hard, credible facts online, the web’s biggest problem is also it biggest strength. For the most part, folks can go online and access volumes of online articles for free. At the same time, just about anyone post articles online whether they are fact-based or not.
If you have ever taken a college class that requires research after the advent of the internet, you probably know that college professors and instructors usually have strict rules governing online research. Since academics requires sources that are fact based, many college instructors forbid the use of wikis, blogs, and biased websites as research sources. The obvious reason for this is the fact that sources such as these are not always fact checked, and often include opinions and rants.
What I am getting to is that online information should be taken with a grain of salt unless the sources can be prove legitimate. While popular sources like Wikipedia do their best to make sure that any posted information is cited from factual resources, the fact remains that anyone can add, subtract, edit, and alter their webpages. Sure, errors and inaccurate information might be caught the same day, but it may go weeks, or even months, before the appropriate edits are made.
The internet is the greatest informational resource since the beginning of human existence. However, web users should approach it with caution if they are hoping to find accurate, credible information. Of course, it is there, but it is just a matter of knowing how to find it. Thus, if you want to learn how to find actual “facts,” you should probably go to college.