It is important to establish the credibility of websites, particularly those that operate as source of wider information, because websites are dependent on an impression of credibility and it is in their interests to persuade visitors of this. Plainly speaking, websites are businesses and they need web traffic in order to sustain themselves. Their first priority is to portray an image which is credible and trustworthy. If the ethos of the company behind the website is to be a resource of reliable information, then that is known only to them in the first instance. The user must establish their own sense of credibility on the basis of consistency and cross referencing with other sources.
In writing an academic essay, the foremost concern is the construction of a meaningful argument. If the research undertaken to form that argument is in any way fallible, perhaps as a result of using an unreliable web source, then the argument will be flawed, greatly affecting the essay’s worth. Regardless of the quality of writing, an academic essay must convey a convincing argument, based upon empirical principles of the subject.
Wikipedia is not a credible resource when conducting academic research because the author or authors cannot be verified and therefore established as credible. Wikipedia is a good resource for gathering elementary information on a subject. The strength of Wikipedia is that it is very accessible. It features a search engine so that visitors can gain a general introduction to a vast range of subjects within one domain. However, anyone can contribute to a Wikipedia article, or edit an existing one, and they can do so anomalously if they wish. As a result there can be no verification of authorship or accountability, thus making a Wikipedia article unsuitable for academic research.
It some cases the risk of using Wikipedia as a resource can be serious: “By its own admission, Wikipedia contains errors. A number of people have tested Wikipedia’s accuracy using destructive methods, i.e. deliberately inserting errors” (Chesney, 2006)
Authors who are published have gone through an evaluation process. Editors examine an author’s research and establish its credibility before publication. Wikipedia does not pretend to carry out the same process of evaluation before an article is posted online. Rather, it is the responsibility of those carrying out research to understand the distinction between credible resources.
A recent advent in web advertising is the ‘pop-up’, which had their beginnings on the web pages that were usually commercial in nature, or light in content – for example, an entertainment news site. Now it seems that the ‘pop-up’ has reached an almost ubiquitous presence on the web, and can be found on blue chip websites like Yahoo and YouTube. And while these particular sites are not known for their seriousness, they are still reputable. The increasing admission of the pop-up is notable and is probably part of an ongoing trend. The ‘pop-up’, due to its interruptive nature, is almost universally disliked among web users. Some ‘pop-ups’ are quite wiley in their design and hard to get rid of. If left unmeasured, their use will erode a websites apparent trustworthiness. It would appear now though that the ‘pop-up’ is a fact of life and this will present web concerns with ongoing issues of credibility.
Presumed Credibility: http://www.nytimes.com/
The New York Times is the most circulated metropolitan newspaper in the United States. Having been awarded more Pulitzer prizes than any other the New York Times is arguably the most respected newspaper. However, this reputation was established through the print form, not online. That is not to say that The New York Times online is not credible, but it is generally accepted that online papers do not offer the same product as the original. Until The New York Times online reaches a similar level of acclaim as its print counterpart, first time visitors will likely be attracted due to Presumed Credibility.
Reputed Credibility: http://www.tripadvisor.com/
Tripadvisor has built a worldwide reputation as a trusted source of accommodation options for would be travellers. There are many other online services of the same nature. People visit Tripadvisor because of recommendations provided by the wider travel industry.
Surface Credibility: http://www.eharmony.co.uk/
eHarmony is a match making service, a product that is nebulous at best and requires a leap of faith from the subscriber. eHarmony seeks to impress visitors with a sleek looking, well designed home page, featuring a mission statement based upon an apparent scientific approach. For eHarmony, first impressions are everything.
Earned Credibility: https://www.google.com/
When Google first originated in 1996, there were already a plethora of search engine websites, many of which enjoyed popularity. Through a period of steady growth, Google has become by far the largest company in the field, due to its perceived reliability and accuracy of results. The great stature of Google has been achieved from a standing start, so to speak. Google’s success might be explained, in part, by their use of a minimal, uncluttered interface and an absence of advertisers on the home page. Google users have their expectations met and this establishes a sense of trust. This is an example of Earned credibility.
Chesney, T. (2006). An empirical examination of Wikipedia’s credibility. Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/article/view/1413/1331