The Internet and Credibility

Is it reliable ?

Since anyone can put a professional looking document on the Internet, you had better be careful what you believe. There are many web pages out there that sound official with information that is just plain wrong.  Here are some guidelines to help evaluate the credibility of your source:

1. Where is it from ?

Determining what type of a server the site is on can tell you a lot about the page. This can be determined by looking at the URL or location of the site in the white box near the top of your browser.

The general format for a site address is http://www.servername.type/folder/folder/page.html

It is the three letter type extension that clues us in as to what the server type is. Below is a brief description of the common types you will find:

2. Is there an author listed?

If an author can be found, who is it? Is it your best friend's kid brother down the street ? A student from a college ? A government researcher from the Jet Propulsion Lab at NASA ? Look for not only the name of the author, but what organization he/she is affiliated with. If such information is not included somewhere in the site, consider the site less reliable. The more information here, the more reliable

If no author or organization is listed. Consider the site unreliable.

Special Note:  Many sites are open to the general public to add and edit.  While there is a chance this information might be correct, there is an equal chance it may not be correct.  These type of sites should generally be avoided in academic research.  If you really want to use any of the following sites, you should make sure to verify the information by finding other sites that give the same information.  These sites should not be used on their own.
  • Sites to Be Avoided as References in Academic Papers:

    • Wikipedia
    • Blogs & Message Boards

3. Can you find the same information other places ?

Is the information you are reading here consistent with information that you have found in other sources ? If not, or if this is the only site that you can find this information, doubt its reliability.

These three questions should be asked of each website before its information is considered valid.