Internet Research and Website Reliability

Step 1 – Determine Website Type

Identifying a website’s type is the first step in determining its origin and consequently its potential credibility and validity.  Although there are many steps to determine is a website is indeed factual and useful, use this as a first step for narrowing down the sites found in your research.

 1)  Advocacy Web Page

 A site that is sponsored by an organization attempting to influence public opinion (that is, one trying to sell ideas). The URL address of the page frequently ends in .org (organization) or .com.    Example:  www.greenpeace.org/usa

 2)  Business/Marketing Web Page

 A site one sponsored by a commercial enterprise (usually it is a page trying to promote or sell products). The URL address of the page frequently ends in .com (commercial). Example:  www.target.com

 3)  News Web Page

 A site whose primary purpose is to provide extremely current information. The URL address of the page usually ends in .com (commercial).   Example:  www.cnn.com

 4) Informational Web Page

 A site whose purpose is to present factual information. The URL Address frequently ends in .org, .edu, or .gov, as many of these pages are sponsored by educational institutions or government agencies.
Examples: Dictionaries, thesauri, directories, transportation schedules, calendar of events, statistical data and other factual information such as reports, presentations of research, or information about a topic.   www.dictionary.com

 5)  Personal Web Page

 A site that is published by an individual who may or may not be affiliated with a larger institution. This includes blogs, wikis, discussion boards, facebook, etc.

 **) Search Engine

 Although this is a type of website, its primary use is to find other websites. A search engine should never be used as a resource for a research paper.

 

Step 2 – Determine Website Reliability Ranking

 

Factor #1 Determine Purpose

Reliability Factor

Most of the information at this site is relevant to the topic.

+1

The page does not show a bias nor appear to be one sided.

(Check advocacy sites closely for bias)

+1

Type of webpage is credible for research – Business, News, Informational. (Page does not appear personal, humorous, exaggerated, or arguing a viewpoint)

+1

Factor #2 Authority

The author, editor, or editing organization is clearly listed

(Look for links that say “About us,” “Background,” “Biography.”)

+1

The authors or editors provide credentials or professional background information. (Check personal sites, blogs, and wikis closely for credentials)

+1

Detailed contact information is included somewhere on the site.

(more than just email)

+1

Domain extension is appropriate for content and research  (.org, .edu, .gov, .mil)

+1

Factor #3 Reliability

The source provides evidence of claims with footnotes or bibliography

+1

There are links to other credible resources about the topic

+1

There are few grammar, punctuation, or spelling errors

+1

Factor #4 Timeliness

The site includes a copyright or revision date

+1

The revision or copyright date is within the past year

+1

Total Credibility Rating

12-11

10-8

7-5

4-0

Excellent

Good

Fair

Not Credible

Reliable – Usable For Research

NOT Reliable – Do Not Use

Information gathered from:

UC Berkeley Library Website Evaluation Technique