Society and the Future of Computing

SFC'96 Poster Abstracts

extracted from a page originally found at:

The INTERNET and Research: Proceed With Caution

Floyd H. Johnson, Assistant Professor Computer Science

Northwestern College 101 Seventh Street SW Orange City, IA 51041

(712) 737 - 7028 (Work and Voice Mail) (712) 737 - 8236 (Home)

Students, faculty, employees, and other creative thinkers are turning to the INTERNET as a source for research material. This poster examines six critical issues facing those who use the INTERNET as a tool to support their research needs.

FLUIDITY - Information that is available today may not be available tomorrow or it may be changed in some significant way.

AGING - The amount of work needed to keep information current is significant. If the original creator of a page has a change of jobs or interests, he or she may not take the time to remove or update information that was current at the time it was originally written. Dated material appears no different than current material when presented on the INTERNET.

AUTHORITY - The identity of the supplier of on-line information is not always apparent. There is little that will distinguish the on-line presentation of an expert, an amateur, a dabbler, or a smart aleck. As with other sources, it is imperative that those using the INTERNET for scholarly purposes seek to verify information from two or three reliable sources.

AUTHENTICITY - Unless the origin of material is personally known by the researcher, caution must be exercised as one seeks to identify the author of on-line material. Nothing prevents one on-line user from claiming unearned credentials. At the extreme, nothing prevents one on-line user from being someone he or she is not - i.e. a relatively well-known person.

SECURITY/OWNERSHIP - Information placed on the INTERNET is easily duplicated. The copyright of material placed on the INTERNET has not yet been tested or proved. Material (not just a WWW link) is copied and used without permission.

DOCUMENTATION - Standards for citing the INTERNET resources are not yet established. Some initial assistance is found in the APA Publication Manual (1994) and the MLA Handbook (1995). Yet both of these standards ignore the world wide web. Until such time as standards are clearly set and publicized, standards are set by individual faculty, institutionally, or by interested organizations. Scholars using the INTERNET for research will need to locate standards appropriate for their disciplines.

The INTERNET may appear to be a window on the world. However, until these six issues are addressed, extra care will need to be taken in using the INTERNET as research resource. These six challenges do not represent obstacles for the scholar, but challenges to be understood and incorporated into our own use of the INTERNET.