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ENG 105 (Tucker)

Pros & Cons of Websites

On Google and the Wider Internet


  • Information is often immediate. Very recent trends and events will be well-represented here, particularly in news resources like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or small, regional papers.
  • There is a wide variety of kinds of resources. NPR podcasts, YouTube videos, criticism, and statistics are all potential avenues for resources.


  • There is little to no curation on the internet. Anyone can make a site or video look professional, and without expert editors, misunderstandings are frequent and often go uncorrected.
  • Online search algorithms, like Google, are driven by popularity, rather than accuracy, which can lead to false but tantalizing information spreading more quickly than true but unexciting information.
  • Many websites may not offer vital information such as who wrote something, how the information was gathered, where they got their facts, or how old the information is, making it much harder to trust some resources.
  • Search results on many sites may differ depending on your own search history. This can create a research 'bubble' that keeps showing you the same things over and over.

Should You Trust This Website?

There are a lot of different ways you can judge a website to see if it is something you should trust. Here are a few:

Currency: Is the information recent? Does recency matter for the topic you've chosen?

Reliability: Are they using their citations accurately

Authority: Why do you trust this author or publisher? What are their credentials? What is their reputation?

Purpose/Point-of-View: Is this opinion, research, or journalism? What bias is present? Are they trying to sell you something?

Together, these form the basic backbone of something called 'The CRAP Test'. Created by Molly Beestrum, the CRAP test is an easy way to remember a few key questions you should always be asking yourself when you are citing a web source.

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.