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Evaluating Online Sources: FAQs

A guide to help you decipher what is credible and what is not.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. Can you determine how credible a website is based on its domain (e.g., .com, .org., .edu, .gov). 

In the earlier days of the Internet domain names (e.g., .com, .org) were generally more meaningful than they are today. Now there is often little distinction between a website with a .com or a .org domain. And while .edu indicates that a webpage is affiliated with an institution of higher education in some capacity, you should look more carefully as what that affiliation is (for example, a personal website of anyone who works or studies at that institution vs. the official website of a research institute affiliated with that institution).
In other words, examining a web site domain is one method in a multi-step process in evaluating a web site, but it is not always a gold standard methodology in determining the credibility of a web site.  Just because a web site has an educational domain (.edu) it does not make it more credible than a .com or a .gov.  Using lateral reading techniques introduced in our workshop can help you determine if a website is credible.  In short, there is no shortcut to spot a bad website from a domain alone.