The Web offers a wealth of information, but not all of it is equally accurate or reliable. Unfortunately there is no easy checklist to consult to see if a Web page is credible. As with all information resources, the usefulness of the information may depend on what was needed in the first place. If you're using a Web-based source for an academic research paper, you'll need to evaluate and cite the source carefully.
In summary, the URL or address of a web page often carries information about the source of the information. There are 5 primary domains (or address groups) for U.S. pages:
ranges from serious research to student pages
factual information, usually reliable
not-for-profit organizations, usually advocacy pages
commercial sites that usually promote or sell products
network providers that include both commercial and individual sites
Advocacy: These pages attempt to influence public opinion. Their web address frequently ends with .org (organization).
Marketing/Business: These pages are sponsored by a commercial body and are used primarily to promote or sell products. Their web address frequently ends with .com (commercial).
Informational: These pages present factual information. Educational institutions or government agencies often sponsor these pages. Their web addresses end with .edu and .gov, respectively.
News: These pages present extremely current information. Their web address often ends with .com (commercial).
Personal: These pages are published by an individual who may or may not be affiliated with a larger institution or organization. Their web address may have a variety of endings (.com, .edu, etc.), and will frequently contain a tilde (~).
Think about these questions as you look at the following sites:
Pediatrics | Male Pregnancy | Google Announces Plan To Destroy All Information It Can't Index
This page is adapted from:
Hammett, P. (1999). Teaching Tools for Evaluating World Wide Web Resources. Teaching Sociology, 27(1), 31-37. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1319243
If you found information using one of the search engines available on the Internet, such as AltaVista or InfoSeek, a directory of the Internet such as Yahoo, or any of the services that rate World Wide Web pages, you need to know:
All information, whether in print or by byte, needs to be evaluated by readers for authority, appropriateness, and other personal criteria for value. If you find information that is "too good to be true", it probably is. Never use information that you cannot verify. Establishing and learning criteria to filter information you find on the Internet is a good beginning for becoming a critical consumer of information in all forms. "Cast a cold eye" (as Yeats wrote) on everything you read. Question it. Look for other sources that can authenticate or corroborate what you find. Learn to be skeptical and then learn to trust your instincts.