Author: Martin Vítů, Charles University - Institute of Librarianship and Information Studies, Czech Republic
As the number of documents grows exponentially, selecting documents that are credible and believable demands considerable efforts. The problem of inaccurate information seems to be most pressing on the Internet. Anyone with a computer can serve simultaneously as author, editor and publisher and can fill any or all of these roles anonymously if he or she so chooses. The arrival of the internet thus raises the old concept of credibility to a new level of importance.
Quality checks used by scholars for print materials – presence of peer review, refereeing, publisher reputation - are more difficult to apply on the Web. As a result, making judgement of information credibility becomes a challenging task.
Differentiating credible information from deceptive information is not a new problem. The question of what marks credible information has been studied within various disciplines, including psychology, philosophy, sociology and marketing. Widespread attention has received the issue of credibility of medical and financial information. If people are misled by inaccurate information, it can cause them serious harm.
Credibility is a very complex concept. It is almost inseparable and closely related to reliability, accuracy, authority and quality. Message credibility results from interaction of source characteristics, message characteristics and receiver characteristics. The medium of delivery has also an impact on credibility assessment.
Credibility can be assessed directly by asking respondents or indirectly by measuring knowledge, attitude and behaviour change.
As a response to the problem of inaccurate information on the Internet various guidelines for evaluating Web sites were published. The proposed indirect indicators of accuracy, while valuable and reasonable within certain constraints, may be extremely unreliable guides to judging information online. Moreover, they can be easily falsified.
Information professionals can try to make it easier for people to verify the accuracy of information. Instead of just teaching people how to evaluate information, they also can try increase the verifiability of the information that they supply to users or that the users seek.
After finishing Higher School of Information Services in 1996 went the author on to study at the Institute of Information Studies and Librarianship (IISL), Faculty of Arts, Charles University. He graduated in 2001. Since then he has been working as an information specialist in the field of economics and finance. 2003 he began his PhD studies at the IISL. His main interest focuses on application of classical bibliometric methods to evaluate scientific development and on quantitative aspects of scholarly communication in the electronic environment.
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