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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