Web documents with no date

No date!

(Things about websites that may drive you crazy, but can be overcome by a savvy scholar. These same things are also lessons to the wise for mistakes to avoid when you yourself create your own Web content.)

 

You find some great information. Even scholarly articles posted to the Web by authors who should know better. But nowhere do you find any date attached to when that information was posted or published. So you start to wonder: how recent is this information? Is it outdated? Can I rely on it? Should I bother with it? Is it five months old, or five years old?

Obviously, currency often equals reliability and value, when it comes to information. It is a major criterion for evaluating a source or website. And it drives you crazy when no date is to be found!

Of course, if you’re a savvy scholar, you will find other sources that will have the same valuable information, with clear dates of publication. That should be no problem if (1) you’re willing to put in enough time to do the research, and (2) the topic is not so esoteric that other sources cannot be found.

But always take everything with a grain of salt—even if a date is on a website document, there’s nothing to prevent fraud and dishonesty. It usually doesn’t happen, but keep in mind that it can. And if there is a date on a Web page, is it clear that this is date of the posting of the document or when the whole site was updated?

At any rate, never let your guard down, no matter how great the information may look on the surface. Keep muttering the Reagan mantra—“trust, but verify.” By verifying, that means finding corroborating sources with the best possible credibility and credentials.

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