Evaluating Information Sources: The Open Internet

Provides guidance on evaluating the credibility of information sources, including books, journals, the open Internet, and primary sources.

Pearls Before Swine Comic

In this Pearls Before Swine comic, Pig faints at hearing that not everything read on the Internet is true

Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis for January 13, 2015; accessed at http://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine.

Know Your Domain Types

Domain indicators in a web address or URL (Uniform Resource Locator) are a clue to the fundamental nature of a site and typically indicate the following:

 .com  a for-profit, commercial business
 .org  an organization of some type; could be professional, educational, non-profit, or some type of advocacy group
 .edu  a higher education institution; the inclusion of a tilde character (~) indicates a personal page (such as a student page, for example)
 .gov  a U.S. government department or agency; usually federal, but now often used at the state or local level, also (example: City of Houston at http://www.houstontx.gov/)
 .us  often used for a U.S. state government department or agency (example: Texas Legislature Online at http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/)
 .ca  example of a country indicator (example: University of Toronto at http://www.utoronto.ca/ in Canada)
 .net  an organization associated with providing network access
 .mil  a U.S. military organization or department

 

While the indicators above are most familiar, website creators may now use a generic Top Level Domain (gTLD), which can be almost anything at all. Examples include:

  • .info
  • .engineer
  • .democrat
  • .social

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) oversees the creation and management of domain names.

Red Flags

Consider questions related to purpose, process, authority, and elements of bias noted on the Home tab, and be particularly careful when you encounter the following "red flags" on a website:

  • authorship and/or sponsoring body difficult to identify and to find information about
  • an author or publisher with a vested interest in convincing you of something or selling you something
  • lots of advertisements
  • multiple broken and outdated links

Additional Tools and Resources

Regarding Wikipedia

For most assignments, your professors will tell you not to use or cite Wikipedia. Even though it's an inappropriate source for most academic work, Wikipedia can be a good place to start for:

  • general background information or overviews
  • identifying possible keywords for a topic
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