Evaluating Web Sites
Let's take a look at two Web sites uncovered by searching for endangered species on Yahoo!. There are some clues to credibility we can look at before we ever go to the sites themselves. When you position your mouse over the link, the address you are about to go to shows on the bottom of your browser window.
Based on titles of the links, two potentially helpful sites are:
- Endangered Species of Hawaii at http://www.hisurf.com/~enchanted/
- Endangered Species Update at http://www.umich.edu/~esupdate/
Looking at the domain names in the addresses helps us to glean something about these sites. "hisurf.com" is the domain of Site #1. The ".com" indicates this is a commercial site, likely to have lots of advertising and/or not necessarily very much editorial control over the content of the web pages posted to it.
Site #2, on the other hand, is located at "umich.edu" - ".edu" designates a U.S. college or university. This immediately lends more credibility to what might be located at this site.
Upon going to the sites, we quickly see that Site #1 would probably not be very helpful for a research paper. It is a site put together by Enchanted Lakes Elementary School students. When we "backtrack" to www.hisurf.com, we find a site called "The Coconut Boyz Present: The All New Internet Island" complete with many advertisements.
At Site #2, however, we find pages done by the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan. Linking to the domain "www.umich.edu" takes us to the University of Michigan home page, a site with much more credibility.
You can use the following to help decipher domain names:
- .com - company or commercial sites, often Internet Service Provider sites
- .edu - U.S. colleges and universities
- .gov - U.S. governmental sites, these will often have useful information
- .org - not for profit agency sites, sites for professional organizations, etc.
- .net - also usually commercial sites, generally somewhere between .com and .org for credibility