Evaluating Websites

This tutorial is about evaluating websites.
It will explain domain endings for URL addresses and it will provide steps or the ABC and D
of website evaluation to determine if a website is credible or not.
Before we begin, have you ever been tricked by appearance?
Maybe something you thought looked “good” turned out to be not so good…
Well, sometimes, websites can be the same way.
Take these websites. Based on their appearance alone which do you think it the professional
website? Website 1 or Website 2?
If you picked Website 1… You’re wrong. While professional in style, this site is
actually a fake site giving out far from accurate information.
But how would you know that? This is where evaluating websites comes into play.
One of the first steps in evaluation is understanding domain endings.
Domain endings are simply what follows the period in your URL address.
The main domain endings are .com, .edu, .gov, and .org.
.COM domain endings are commercial sites that are usually trying to sell you a product or
service. They aren’t the most reliable websites in terms of researching a product or a service.
So if you wanted to know the side effects of botox you might not want to visit a .com
botox site. .EDU are educational sites such as universities
and public schools. Be careful when you’re on these sites as many colleges and universities
provide free webpages for their students… You wouldn’t want to be citing a freshman
college students’ website about cancer, would you? But, you can find lots of credible
information on these sites from faculty and researchers.
.GOV are government pages. These are great sites to visit when you need reports over
certain drugs, laws, and so forth… Back to our previous example, if you wanted to
know the side effects of botox you might turn to the Food and Drug Administration’s .gov
site to look at their research over the drug. .ORG sites are organizational sites and while
they sometimes provide loads of information be careful. Organizations have their own personal
missions so if you wanted information about gun violence and safety, the information you
find on a pro-gun organizational site compared to the information you find on an anti-gun
organizational site could be different and potentially biased.
Now that we understand domain endings, let’s look at some of the steps or the A, B, C and
D of website evaluation that you need to go through in order to determine if a website
is credible or not. One of the first things to look for is the
site’s authority. Who is behind the site and why do they have the site? The best way
to do this is locate an “About us” or “About Author” on the page. This link
should lead you to a page that will detail an author’s credentials for posting the
information you’re reading. If you’re looking at an .org site, here you should find
not only the organization’s name but their mission. All of this information is necessary
not only to understand if a website is credible, in terms of accuracy, but also the site’s
potential bias. Have you ever been on a website in which the
content was obviously slanted or maybe the page consisted solely of hyperlinks to buy
items? Here is a WebMD entry about asthma. And, while the page shows that the information
for this entry was reviewed by licensed medical doctor, you might also notice that at the
top of the page, that the website’s advertiser is an Asthma medication maker. Here, you might
start to ponder whether or not WebMD’s content could be biased in nature due to their site’s
advertisers. Next, look for the currency of the site. When
was the last time the page was updated? Or the article on the website written? While
copyright date isn’t too important with sites relaying historical information, currency
is especially important with sites relaying rapidly changing information such as legislation
news or medical information. Medical sites’ currencies are extremely important when researching
current health epidemics like influenza outbreaks. Finally, look for the documentation. Quite
like when you’re asked to cite your sources for the papers you write in college. Where
is the site pulling its information? Are the website’s sources listed? If you’re looking
at a website that is talking about cancer treatment and so forth, where is their information
coming from? Is it in-house research? Is it research from a University? If a site doesn’t
provide its sources that may be a sign of trouble. With this Amnesty International report,
they actually do list their sources, so you may want to look back at these sources to
make sure that Amnesty is being true to the original sources’ information and not slanting
the information to fit in with their organizational mission.
So here you have it. The ABC and D of website evaluation: authority, bias, currency and
documentation. Should you require any additional assistance,
please stop by the Library Assistance desk on the first floor of the Library. Or, call
us at (405) 682-1611 extension 7251. Or, visit our Ask a Librarian page to find out more
information about how to email, chat and text with us.

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