Establish the Type of Resource

One of the problems with the Internet is that everything looks screen-shaped and screen-sized.

None of the physical clues present in books, journals and newspapers about the nature and quality of the resource are available.

At first glance it can be difficult to distinguish an electronic book from a database, from a mailarchive, from a journal, from a newspaper etc.

computer image
To be able to evaluate the quality of a resource it is necessary to establish what type of resource it is.

Ask yourself ~ What exactly am I looking at? ~ What type of resource is this?

What types of Internet resources are there?

This is not an easy question to answer! The human imagination knows no boundaries and new types of resource are appearing all the time.

There are different ways of classifying Internet resources into "types". You might consider the following when trying to establish the type of resource you are faced with:

1) What type of format?

You might classify a resource by making a decision about its format.

There has been some work on creating standard descriptions for different types of Internet resource. To date (and this may change) the Dublin Core working group (comprising international Internet and information experts) has identified the following types of Internet resource:



Text abstracts, articles, emails, dictionaries, homepages, indexes, manuals, monographs, pamphlets, poems, proceedings, serials, theses
Image animation, film, photographs, graphics
Sound ambient, effects, music, narration, speech
Software programs (eg shareware)
Data numeric, spatial, spectral, statistical, structured text (eg bibliographic data and database reports)
Interactive chat, games, multimedia, VR (virtual reality)

Different resources also use different standard formats:


Brief Definition

PDF (Portable Document Format) a format for presenting printed documents electronically so that they appear exactly as they would on a printed page - used by Adobe Acrobat software
ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) a format for text files
GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) a standard used for compressing images on the WWW
JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) a standard used for compressing images on the WWW
PNG (Portable Network Graphics) a file format for compressed graphic images that, in time, is expected to replace the GIF format
MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group) an emerging standard for compressing digital video and audio
REALAUDIO a means of playing an audio file as it is downloading, rather than having to download and store it first

2) What type of protocol?

Another way to classify the type of resource you are looking at is by identifying the Internet protocol it uses.

Here are some examples of different protocols:


Brief Definition

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) the standard/rules for exchanging files on the World Wide Web
FTP (File Transfer Protocol) allows people to access and download files held on a remote FTP server and to transfer files from one computer to another
Mailto enables the exchange of computer-stored email messages through the WWW
Telnet enables you to access files held on another computer (as long as permission has been given)

Look at the format of the resource ~ Consider the protocols and standards being used

3) Primary or secondary information?

Another method of classifying the type of resource is on the basis of the contents.

A critical question here is whether the information in the resource is primary or secondary (in Internet terms).

Primary information

Sites contain primary information if the information is actually held on the server of the site and has been created and produced by the owners of the site. Most of the links are likely to be internal ie point to information held on the same server.

Secondary information

Sites contain secondary information if they link to "third party" information located and created elsewhere. Most of the links will be external - and will take you to information located on other servers.

Here are some examples:

Primary sites

full-text documents
sound files
multimedia sites

Secondary (or referential) sites

search engines
Information gateways / virtual libraries
lists of links

Consider whether the person or organisation creating the site has also created the information
~ Look at the URLs that links point you to and see if they point to internal or external sites

By considering the nature, format and content of an Internet site you should be able to make a decision about the type of resource you are looking at.

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