Finding Quality Information on the World Wide Web

Adrienne Franco, M.L.S., M.S.
Richard L. Palladino, M.L.S., M.S.
Iona College Libraries
New Rochelle, NY
Based on a Presentation Given at the Tenth Annual Conference (1999)
International Information Management Association

Updated 8/5/2005

Introduction Summary of  Strategies
Locating Subject Guides Electronic Discussion Lists
Web Rating and Evaluation Sites Evaluating Web Sites
Intelligent Search Engines Computer Science  (a few examples for IIMA audience)

Unlike most print publications which have editors and editorial boards to screen and select content, any individual or group can publish on the world wide web.  This lack of quality control and the explosion of web sites makes the task of finding quality information on the web especially critical.  Numerous studies report that search engines are difficult to use, only cover a fraction of existing sites and often are not selective in terms of quality.

This presentation will focus primarily on finding quality subject guides and other resources on the web itself utilizing Web Rating and Evaluation Sites produced, for the most part, under the auspices of libraries and librarians. The web contains numerous subject guides on various disciplines and topics which have been selected and edited by scholars and librarians.  These guides often include descriptive annotations and sometimes graphical ratings such as  stars or check marks.  They usually list and evaluate "megasites" within a  field.  These megasites, in turn, link to more specific sites.

Secondarily, this presentation will include some tips for locating  subject guides utilizing search engines.

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Summary of Strategies

What strategies can be used to find quality web sites effectively and  quickly?  Common and useful sources of information  for locating quality information on the web include:

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Locating Subject Guides

Some strategies for locating subject guides on the web include:

1.  Use web rating and evaluation sites noted below.

2.  Determine what academic institutions have major programs  or graduate programs in a field.  Go to the web site of that institution .  Look for appropriate departmental web site. Also, check the library web site at that institution.  Libraries create web pages which support curricula at their institutions.

To help you identify which institutions have programs in a particular field, consult print or electronic directories, e.g. College Blue Book ; Peterson's college guides

Once you've identified an appropriate institution, try using  the url:   "" (for U.S. universities), OR use  a web directory such as:
American Universities

Iona College Subject  Guides  (Iona College Libraries)

3.  Use web search engines and directories to retrieve  subject guides. Search terms to use should include name of the discipline or  subject and terms such as internet resources, research guide, etc.
e.g. "computer science" +resources +web
e.g.. "computer science" +internet +guide
IMPORTANT: Restrict the search engine to web page titles!!

4. As  noted above, subscribe to appropriate email and usenet discussion lists in your  field.  Many of these are accessible on the web including searchable archives  of messages. To identify such lists in your field of interest, consult :

CataList, the official  catalog of LISTSERV lists

Google Groups    Provides access to thousands of usenet newsgroups.

Searching Email Discussion  Group Archives and Usenet Newsgroup Archives

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These sites rate and evaluate subject guides or "megasites" in a  field.  The megasites or subject guides in turn provide access to more  specific topics and sites. Many of these sites have grown into large databases searchable by multiple access points often including Library of Congress Subject Headings, Dewey or LC call numbers, keyword and more!

AcademicInfo: Your Gateway to Quality Online Educational Resources
Annotated list of web sites broken down by academic discipline.

ALA | Internet Resources
Web sites reviewed in College & Research Libraries News.

BUBL LINK / 5:15 Search by subject or Dewey Decimal number.

Digital Librarian  "A  librarian's choice of the best of the web." (Margaret Vail Anderson of Cortland , NY).  Multidisciplinary.  Can input search term(s) or browse  subject categories.

INFOMINE: Scholarly Internet Resource Collections
Large database of thousands of "expert-selected" and "robot-selected" free and fee-based sites. The database is searchable by keyord, LCSH subject headings and classification numbers and more! Infomine is geared more to academic libraries.

Internet Public Library
"an educational initiative of the University of Michigan School of Information ...  sponsored by Bell & Howell Information and Learning. Staffed by professional librarians with assistance from students and volunteer librarians from around the world, it has been visited by more than 7 million people from over 100 countries. The library maintains a collection of online ready reference works; responds to reference questions; creates web resources; evaluates and categorizes resources on the Internet; and provides a space for exhibits."
Includes "the IPL's own collections of over 27,000 Internet resources, hand picked, organized and described by librarians and library students."

Librarians' Index to  the Internet
Librarian-selected internet resources. LII is geared more to public libraries.

MeL: "Best of the Internet" Selected by Librarians (Michigan Electronic Library).

Net Sites By  the Numbers -- Tempe Public Library
Primary access is by Dewey Decimal classification number.

Resource Discovery Network (RDN)
Note: Thanks to Wouter Gerritsma, Information Specialist, Library Wageningen UR, Netherlands, for informing me of this valuable UK-based source.
The RDN provides access to subject gateway "hubs" including: Artifact (Arts & Creative Industries), EEVL (Engineering, Mathematics & Computing), Geosource (Geography and Environment), BIOME (Health, Medicine & Life Sciences), ALTIS (Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism), HUMBUL (Humanities), PSigate (Physical Sciences), and SOSIG (Social Science, Business & Law). These "hubs" may be searched simultaneously using a common interface, or individually with option to use thesaurus terms. In addition, sites other than those in the subject "hubs" are described and evaluated. Also included are "Virtual Training Suite" which provides comprehensive tutorials for various disciplines.
" The RDN builds upon the foundations of the subject gateway activity carried out under the JISC's (Joint Information Systems Committee) eLibProgramme."

"Compiled & edited by Gary Price, MLIS" Online newsletter includes announcements and reviews of new sites!

The Scout Report
College of Letters and Sciences, University of Wisconsin. This is an online publication issued weekly, every Friday. However, archived issues (older than most recent) are searchable. A sophisticated advanced search form is available at:

WWW Virtual Library
Links to all official WWW Virtual Libraries in all disciplines!

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The web contains many articles and other pages which list criteria  for evaluating web sites.  Many of these are written by  scholars and  librarians from academic institutions around the world. Here at Iona College , we provide the following resources to help users critically evaluate the web sites they find.


A comprehensive checklist is available which many of our faculty have incorporated into their web research assignments. For example, students may be required to select 2 or 3 web sites and complete an evaluation form for each one.  In answering the questions on the form, students are forced to think critically about their sites.

EVALUATING WORLD WIDE WEB SITES Comprehensive Evaluation Form

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Although this presentation does not focus on search engines, it is worthy to note some of the intelligent" search engines which utilize artificial or machine intelligence criteria to analyze, select, and organize web sites, eliminating or minimizing sites less relevant to your search.  Examples with links are noted below:

Ask Jeeves
Type in a question using natural language.  No need to use "keywords" or boolean logic.  Jeeves searches its own database to see if your question is already in their database!  The web itself is also searched.

"... responds to your query using an automated method that ranks relevant websites based on the link structure of the Internet itself. "
"In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. Google assesses a page's importance by the votes it receives. But Google looks at more than sheer volume of votes, or links; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves "important" weigh more heavily and help to make other pages "important." "

Can refine search results by clicking on icons representing subtopics or aspects of a topic. Can add or remove subtopics.

"Teoma uses Subject-Specific PopularitySM. Subject-Specific Popularity ranks a site based on the number of same-subject pages that reference it, not just general popularity."

Searches may be refined by clicking on subtopics graphically represented as folders.

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COMPUTER SCIENCE (examples of  sites)

Product reviews, Shopping, Tech reviews, and Downloads.
"... whatis® is a knowledge exploration tool about information technology, especially about the Internet and computers. It contains over 2,000 individual encyclopedic definition/topics and a number of quick-reference pages. The topics contain about 12,000 hyperlinked cross-references between definition-topics and to other sites for further information."

Webopedia: Online Computer Dictionary  for Internet Terms and Technical Support.
"The only online dictionary and search engine you need for computer and Internet technology."

Ziff-Davis technology/media company, publisher of many computer-related periodicals.  Site includes software and other computer product  ratings, computer  industry news, software downloads and more.

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Last Updated 8/5/2005  Adrienne Franco

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