— Mrs. Weasley, Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban
Mrs. Weasley’s warning can apply to websites as well as it applies to magical objects. Identifying a website’s “brain” will help to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a website’s information.
Follow these guidelines to determine a website’s validity. These analyses are critical in deciding whether a site is authoritative enough to utilize as an authoritative source.
Start with Domains
The last part of a website, the domain, tells you something about who sponsors that website and gives clues about its validity. Here are common domains:
|Domain||Who owns it?||Could I trust it?|
|United States government website||
Yes. US Gov’t sitesveryreliable
|Education website||Yes, but determine author’s credentials: Faculty? Staff? Student?|
|Organizational author||Maybe. Watch for bias|
|For-profit author||Be careful. Profit goals may bias results|
|International website||Maybe, depending on website purpose|
|Private owner renting server space||Not usually. Sites are often personal projects|
|US Military website||Yes. Government funded|
Contact Information. Contact information should be easy to find on a website. If it’s not, beware! A website with no contact information is often not credible.
Website Purpose. The site’s purpose should be easy to find and clearly stated.
Language. Grammatical errors, typographical errors, word choice, and tone all assist in evaluating websites.
Spotting Fake News
Website Extras. Check for “co” or “lo” incorporated in the website anysite.com.co. These are usually fake sites, often mimicking an actual site.
Tone. Be suspicious of extreme statements, explanation points, or wording that evokes strong anger or agreement.
“Clickbate.” Be suspicious of a site containing catchy headlines that try to get readers to click. These sites may have legitimate information interspersed with less reliable information.
Content. Compare the content of a suspicious site against established news sources such as the New York Times, CNN, or Washington Post. Be suspicious if only the questionable site is reporting it, or if other questionable sites are reporting the story.
For more more information, check False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and Satirical “News” Sources
|Site #1||Site #2||Site #3|
Limiting by domain. Type site:gov with search terms to retrieve sites from a specific domain, government websites in this case.
Limiting a domain. Type -site:com with search terms to retrieve sites other than a specific domain, commercial websites in this case.
Phrase searching. Type quotes around words to search them together as phrase: “united states”
Google Scholar. Google Scholar is a part of Google that retrieves more reliable information, though you must evaluate all websites regardless of origin.
Compare these two websites. Are they reliable enough for you to use as a source? Please list 2 reasons why/why not for each site.
Compare these two websites. Are they reliable enough for you to use as a source? Please list 2 reasons why/why not for each site. Pay particular attention to the contributors to the site and their credentials.