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Evaluating Sources - Maple Woods

Determine whether the sources you use for research are reliable and appropriate for your paper or speech

Ask Yourself . . .

Websites can provide some of the most current information about a topic. However, websites must be evaluated more thoroughly than peer-reviewed articles. There is no review process on the open web, so you are much more likely to run into misinformation. Ask yourself the following questions to help evaluate a web source:

  • Who is the author?  Are qualifications or credentials listed?  Is contact information provided? You can find additional information about the author with a quick web search.
  • When was the information posted? Is the information still up-to-date? Does the site contain a lot of broken links?
  • Is the information accurate?  (Compare to other sources.)  Are sources cited?
  • What is the purpose of the site:  To inform? To sell a product or service? To persuade? To entertain?
  • Is the information obviously biased?  Does it present different points of view?
  • What is the level of language?  Easy enough for a child? Generally understood by an adult? Scholarly? Technical?

What is in a Domain?

A website's URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is basically the website's address. The URL tells your web browser where to go to reach the web page. You can learn a lot about a website simply by looking at the URL, including the creator, audience, purpose, and sometimes the country of origin. 

Look at the following URL to see what you can learn about the web page:

You can tell this is a government website (.gov) and that it is for the State of Missouri (.mo). The .sos means it is the Secretary of State's website. Looking at the rest of the URL you can see this is the elections division and helps you locate your local election authority. 

Common domain suffixes in the US include:

  • .edu-a site from a college or university
  • .gov-a government site, can include federal, state, county, and city levels of government
  • .org-traditionally a non-profit organization, however, anyone can register a .org domain so you want to critically evaluate these domains
  • .com-commercial, these sites are generally owned by businesses and should be heavily scrutinized
  • .mil-used by Armed Forces of the United States
  • .net-traditionally internet-related services, although anyone can register a .net
  • .k12-these sites are from K-12 schools
  • For more information about internet domains :