Evaluating Web Sites

To evaluate the quality of a web site, consider these aspects:

1. Scope: Are all aspects of the subject covered? To what level of detail does the resource go?

2. Content: Is the information factual or based on opinion- are you able to tell? Does the site contain original information, or simply links to other web sites? Where is the web site getting its information? Ask yourself these questions:

A) Is the information in the web site accurate? How are you able to tell? Does the information contain a political or ideological bias? Ask yourself, "What motivation does the web site have for placing the information on the Internet?"
B) Is the web site sponsored by a reputable person or group? Can you verify the information sources? Are you able to contact the person or group if you have questions?
C) How current is the information on the web site? How often is the web site updated? Who maintains the web site?
D) Are there links to other resources? Are the links maintained and updated?

Basic web address information:

Web addresses are known as URL's, which stands for Uniform Resource Locator.
Web addresses contain two parts- the protocol, which is the first part of every web address, and the domain name, which is the second part of every web address.

For example: http://www.amazon.com

Here, "http" refers to the protocol (hypertext transfer protocol) and "www.amazon.com" refers to the web site's domain name.

Top-Level Domains and Web Addresses

Web addresses will have different domain suffixes (called top-level domains) depending upon the group or individual responsible for the web site. Web addresses that end in:

.com - web sites sponsored by commercial businesses (this is the most common top-level domain on the Internet) ie: www.amazon.com
.edu - web sites sponsored by educational institutions ie: www.ucla.edu
.gov - web sites sponsored by government agencies ie: www.whitehouse.gov
.mil - web sites sponsored by military agencies ie: www.usapa.army.mil
.org - web sites sponsored by organizations (usually non-profit) ie: www.lww.org (League of Women Voters)
.net - web sites that deal with Internet-oriented services (www.earthlink.net)

Which top-level domain addresses contain the best information on the Internet?

It depends on what kind of information you are looking for. In GENERAL, web addresses that end in .com are commercial sites- these sites are either in the business to sell you something or have you buy something from their advertisers. Web addresses that end in .org are organizational sites- information from these web sites usually reflects the philosophy of the organization that sponsors the web site, and may or may not be unbiased, fact-based information. Web addresses that end in .edu are sites sponsored by educational institutions. These sites may contain quality, research-oriented information, or they may contain work posted by students like yourself who attend the school. In general, if you are looking for basic facts or reliable statistics, web addresses that end in .gov tend to be highly reliable- you know which government agency is sponsoring the web site and you know where they are getting their information from.

Remember, when evaluating web sites, ask yourself: who is sponsoring the web site, where are they getting their information from, when was the site last updated and who do you contact if you need to verify a fact or get more information. If you are unable to answer these questions, be very careful trusting the information that you find on these web sites.

created by Debi Hoffmann 2/03