The Politics One Internet Guide to Australian PoliticsThere is a vast amount of information which can be easily retrieved using the Internet as a research tool. However the world wide web also contains a great deal of misinformation. It is important to consider the reliability of sources upon which you rely for information.@@@Cornell University Library@@@and Widener University’s@@@Wolfgram Memorial Library@@@offer some useful advice on evaluating websites, and Alastair Smith at Victoria University of Wellington maintains a@@@webpage@@@which links to other useful sources.@@@
Weighing the reliability of web sources begins with your choice of search engine. The A standard@@@Google@@@search can retrieve a long list of sources. But@@@Google Scholar@@@lists only scholarly research. Journal articles (but not all the unpublished papers) that you may find via this search engine have been peer reviewed.) Peer reviewed papers are more trustworthy because they have been checked by other experts in the field.@@@
Web pages from official sources such as government agencies can generally be relied upon. But this is often not true of other web pages which a@@@Google@@@orYahoo!Search@@@search might return. There are many websites and ‘blogs’ which present information in a seemingly reliable manner but which can not be trusted.@@@
Another related problem is that the Internet contains a great deal of dated information. (You can often check when a webpage was last updated by examining ‘file properties’. Sometimes URLs also carry dates.) It is very important to check that the sources from which you may take information are reliable, and to distinguish between opinions and arguments supported by analysis and evidence.@@@
Some questions to ask in evaluating web sources are
- Is the author identifiable? What are her academic credentials?
- Who publishes the site? Is it an educational institution or government agency?
- Does the information available tie in with information you have obtained elsewhere?
- What is the purpose of the website? Is it political, a blog or a commercial site?
- Is it well-written? Does it use polemical language? Is it written for school students?
- What kinds of sites does it link to?
- Is the information current? When was the website published and last up-dated?
- Has the material available been peer reviewed?
An interesting and freely available research tool is the@@@Wikipedia@@@encyclopedia which is written by readers who are able to correct or augment its entries. By and large the information it provides is reliable (although it too should be cross-checked). Wikepedia is a useful quick way of investigating concepts such as ‘political power’ which you may encounter while reading@@@Politics One@@@and wish to unpack. There are also several websites which provide a reliable and specialised introduction to Australian politics. One of these is Malcolm Farnsworth’s@@@AustralianPolitics@@@web page. Palmer’s@@@OzPolitics@@@page is another. The@@@Australian Government & Politics@@@site is also useful—its glossary provides a quick definition of a great many of the terms which we use in Politics One.@@@
Most government departments,@@@parliament@@@itself, and agencies such as the Australian Electoral Commission, maintain websites which offer information about their role, organisational structure and history. A convenient access point is the Australian Government’s Websites A-Z@@@page. Major@@@political parties@@@and a great many organised interest groups also have an on-line presence.@@@Parliamentary proceedings and committee reports@@@are accessible via the internet. Newspapers of record such as@@@The Australian, The Age@@@and@@@The Sydney Morning Herald@@@are also available electronically and their back issues can be searched via@@@Factiva, LexisNexis@@@or a similar specialised database.@@@
For a more detailed and helpful evaluation of the internet as a research tool see or refer to@@@Hague and Harrop's Internet Guide to Comparative Politics. For a list of on-line resources on Australian politics see the@@@Political Resources on the Net@@@page.