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PSY 250 Careers in Psychology: Evaluate Websites

Using Internet Sources

Google and Wikipedia

Google and Wikipedia will help you find information on the Internet. Google is an Internet search engine. It will find websites for you. Wikipedia is a collaborative encyclopedia.  It contains lots of information about lots of topics. But you need to be careful when using these tools.

Google will just find sites for you. It will not tell you whether or not those sites are accurate, unbiased, or current. Google also cannot tell you whether or not a website is useful to you, for your project. Just because a website comes up in a top ten Google results list doesn't mean that the information is useful for you. You must evaluate web sites before you use any information from them.

Wikipedia can be useful to help you get started finding information. But because anybody can edit a Wikipedia page, you have to take information you find there with a grain of salt. Wikipedia should never be used as more than a starting place for getting some background information, and then only as one of many. Always check Wikipedia facts against what you are finding elsewhere, and never cite Wikipedia entries.

For a funny take on why you should be careful about using Wikipedia, watch this clip from the Colbert Report TV show.

More Resources

More guides to evaluating web content:

Is it Credible?

Use these indicators to evaluating website credibility.  If you don't find indicators of credibility, assume it is not credible, however, different information needs will require different types of sources.  Ask you professor whether sources must be peer reviewed or not.

Note: as a college student you should never have to pay for information; if the library does not have what you need, it can most likely be requested.

Authorship

  • look for an "about us", "credits", or "biography" page to find authors and sources
  • look for author's contact information and professional affiliations such as a university 
  • look up authors in WorldCat, Web of Science, or on Amazon to see if they are really an expert
  • be sure not to confuse the author with the webmaster
  • some websites, including government or organizational sites, will not list individual authors; in that case look at the domain suffix for clues 

Domain

  • domain ownership can be informative as to possible bias or purpose
  • look up a domain's owner at whois.net
  • the domain suffix (eg., .com) can be an indicator of a website's purpose

Suffix Type of Website Description
.com commercial entity

This is the most generic suffix.  It is used for advertising, shopping, news, blogs, and much more.  This suffix does not indicate (or rule out)  credibility.

.edu educational institution Be aware that institutions do not always endorse the views published by students or faculty.
.gov    government Government agencies publish legislation, census information, tax forms, and other credible resources.
.org non-profit organization Non-profits publish to promote their own causes, but in actuality anyone can own a .org domain.
  • note that these are not the only domain suffixes in existence; country-specific suffixes can also be useful (eg,. .ca, .uk)

              

Purpose

  • is the website educational or a public resource provided by a government or reputable organization?
  • is the website trying to sell something or promote a viewpoint?
  • is the website a hoax or satire?

Currency

  • look for updates or revision dates
  • avoid undated or un-maintained websites
  • be wary of undated information on any website
  • avoid websites with dead links

Can You Believe It?

Anyone can say anything on the internet, so be cautious.