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EML102 Research Skills Guide: Evaluating websites

EVALUATING INTERNET SOURCES

The internet can be an excellent source of high quality, reliable information but it is crucial to question the quality of this information as anyone can publish anything on the internet. 

To evaluate information on the internet, use the same criteria of currency, authority, reliability and purpose as you would for any other kinds of information.

However, there are some additional signs to look for when considering internet sources, which we go through below.

DOMAIN

The type of domain provides you a hint as to the reliability of the website at which you are looking.

Generally speaking:

  • Good= .edu (educational institution); .gov (government)
    These are more likely to be reliable and unbiased but do read critically and analyse for any flaws.
  • Ok= .org (non-profit organisation); .asn (non-commercial organisation)
    Check these sites for bias. Sometimes these organisations can be biased toward one side of an issue that is actually quite complex.
  • Avoid = .com (commercial site); .net (network)
    Try to avoid these sites as they are more likely to be unreliable. If you find an interesting fact, check the scholarly literature on the topic to see if it is upheld (in which case you would be best to cite the literature rather than the website). Keep in mind that .net is the domain given to any site that doesn't fit into the other domain categories.

However, if you find a .com or .net site that you think is ok, look at the currency, authority, reliability and purpose to see if your suspicion is supported by evidence.

AVOID IF...

You should avoid a website if:

  • It is a commercial (.com) or network (.net) website;
  • The author or affiliations are not clear;
  • The author or affiliations have any obvious bias, such as commercial or political interests; and
  • There are no sources or references provided.

WHERE TO FIND REPUTABLE WEBSITES

Here are some suggestions about where you might find reputable websites:

  • Use search engines' advanced search features to look for websites with .edu, .gov, .org or .asn in the domain name.
  • Use the Useful Websites section of your discipline's Library Resources Guide.
  • Check reference lists of books and journal articles, or your subject outline.

null Tip: For tips about how to search more effectively in Google, check out these Google search strategies