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Internet References (was: Brochu's No Subject)

On Tue, 28 Aug 2001 13:24:18  
 chris brochu wrote:
>I would also like to reinforce what Tom H., John H., and others have 
>said regarding the use of web-based references.
>A couple of years ago, I got a call from a woman about her daughter's 
>homework assignment.  Her daughter (2nd grade, if I recall correctly) 
>was in a class in which the teacher assigned each student a different 
>extinct animal and then asked for presentations of a given length (I 
>no longer remember how long).  Her daughter's assigned animal was 
>(Interestingly, she did not call for me specifically - she simply 
>called the Field Museum and asked for a paleontologist.  No one at 
>the Museum's switchboard knew I had ever looked at any crocodyliform, 
>much less Deinosuchus.  This was simply a stroke of luck  for her.)
>Anyway, she was having difficulty finding published information on 
>Deinosuchus.  I was not surprised (and  said so), as there is very 
>little we can actually say about Deinosuchus - it was big, it is 
>typically found in estuarine or coastal deposits, it's known only 
>from the Campanian (maybe lower Maastrichtian) of North America, and 
>so on.  I honestly didn't think it was an appropriate choice for a 
>second-grader, and eventually advised her to ask her daughter's 
>teacher for a different animal for her daughter.
>What horrified me was the "information" she had pulled off the web 
>for her daughter.
>Moral of the story - the web can be a valuable tool, but unless you 
>know who is providing the information, it shouldn't be used instead 
>of a well-stocked library. 

Yeah, a big problem.  I recall discussing this awhile back with HPs Hopp, 
Lipka, etc.  As a high school student, it never ceases to amaze me just how 
many people (especially fellow students) rely on the Internet for information.  
I remember doing a biology paper on coenzymes in which I was one of maybe three 
or four students (out of 40) to use a non-Internet source!

I agree that the Internet is a very valuable teaching tool, but when I use it 
to find information, I only take information seriously if it is written by a 
scientist or somebody who is qualified to say what they have said!  For 
dinosaurs, the Dinosauricon is probably the best site out there.  Of course, 
usually, college course websites are accurate (not always), as are the sites of 
university professors, museums, and state geological surveys.  However, even 
these sites can have obvious inaccuracies.  

I am always very careful about citing a website in anything I write.  Of 
course, sites do come in handy for somebody like myself, who does not have 
access to a scientific library.  This is a huge problem now, as I am trying to 
complete this Upper Pennsylvanian macrofossil site project with the help of 
only a few good pieces of literature.  I am very limited in what I can obtain, 
so I have to make use of all information available to me.  I have gone online 
to search for information on fossils that I know are present at my site, but I 
will only cite that information if it is something that is from a very 
reputable webpage (in my case, an actual excerpt from a book put out by the 
Kansas Geological Survey).

One has to be very cautious...


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