Dec 22, 2008

How To Check The Validity Of A Website

There is a popular post on YouTube labeled The Real Duck Face Popeye. Over 3 million people have seen it. Click the link and watch a grainy video of an elderly gentleman performing stunts with his massively stretchable face, including touching his eyeball with his tongue and stretching his bottom lip up and over his nose and all the way to his eyebrows. This feat of facial acrobatics illustrates the following point perfectly--there is a lot of stuff on the Internet. As traditional print research slowly dwindles among students, research on the Internet is constantly growing. Having an instant connection to volumes upon volumes of information certainly has many upsides, but it is not without pitfalls. For every fact you may find on the Internet, there is sure to be at least one complete falsification saying the complete opposite. Let these tips guide your next research-bound venture onto the web.

Credibility is the word when considering whether or not to use a source in your research. The first indication as to whether or not a site is credible is in the domain (a.k.a. the end of the website’s “address”). That line of text at the top of your browser will let you know exactly what kind of site you’re dealing with. One example of a credible domain would be one that ends in “dot gov” (.gov), such as with the White House website, or the CIA Factbook, as .gov denotes that the site is run by the government. Likewise, a “dot edu” site (.edu), such as a website for a university, can also be considered credible. Finally, “dot org” sites (.org) like HippoCampus carry credibility as they denote a profit or non-profit organization. However, the domain is only part of it. While it’s a great indicator as to what kind of website you are dealing with, it is not enough to simply believe information because of a certain domain.

The next thing you should do is research the author. Ask yourself why you should believe what the author is stating. Has the author published anything else, and if so, does it pertain to the subject you are researching? Does the author hold a degree from an accredited University? Is there the possibility for bias? What are the author’s sources? If you don’t come up with good answers to these types of questions, don’t trust the information they give.

With any information on the Internet you should always try and find the date of publication, as well. Often, websites will fall behind due to lack of time, resources, or interest, and the information they present could be months or even years out of date.

Take everything with a grain of salt, and double-check with another website to be sure. If both the website and author seem credible, it should be an okay source. But hey, don’t take my word for it—check for yourself.

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