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ENG 105 - Carpenter

Should You Trust This Website?

RELIABLE:

  • Is the author qualified to write about the topic? (Look at his or her credentials, experience, or organizational affiliations.)
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
  • Is the author trying to sell something?
  • Does the source reveal bias?
  • Is the information factual?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or other typographical errors?
  • Is the information current?

RELEVANT:

  • Does the information relate to your topic of answer your question?
  • Does the source meet the requirements of your assignment?
  • Is the information at the appropriate level (not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?

-Taken from p. 72 of Teaching Information Literacy: Threshold Concepts Lesson Plans for Librarians, Chapter Three  "Determining  the Relevance and Reliability of Information Sources"

The .com/.org/.gov Rule

You may have heard something along the lines of

  • You should only trust a website if it is a .edu, .gov, or .org. Never trust a .com!

This rule does not work. Do not follow it.

Instead, use the tools I laid out in the box above this one. You must consider each resource on a case-by-case basis. Each kind of resource has its own types of biases and best uses.

  • .gov: This has robust statistical information that no other organization has the reach or resources to gather.
    • Information about employment trends, policy, and census data tend to be very strong here.
    • As we saw in the transition from the Obama White House to the Trump White House, different priorities on climate science saw the two administrations prioritize that data in different ways. Remember to stay critical, even of government resources.
  • .edu: In order to receive a .edu, the webpage must be affiliated with a college or university.
    • This can be a great place to find statistics and information about higher ed, and may offer academic and historical information as well.
    • That said, remember, the college or university does have a bias: They want you to attend and remain a student.
    • What's more, some colleges offer blogs or limited page hosting to students, staff, and faculty. These resources may not live up to the same high standards of official university publication.
  • .com: Your average, commercial website, this makes up most of the internet.
    • These resources are not inherently untrustworthy. The New York Times is a .com, for example.
    • Think about the questions we asked above. Why should you trust this author? Are they selling something? Do they provide links or citations to back up claims? These questions and more will dictate whether or not you can trust a source.
  • .org: A url given to organizations. Not just good ones, though; any organization can claim a .org domain.
    • These resources are not inherently trustworthy. Just like with .coms, you should be thinking about the questions provided above and judging on a case-by-case basis whether or not something is trustworthy.

Web Resources

Below are a few links that I think many of you will find helpful. These are not the only sources you can use online, but they may be helpful places to start.