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How can I tell if a website is credible?
There are six ways you can tell if your website is credible.
- Author – Information on the internet with a listed author is one indication of a credible site. The fact that the author is willing to stand behind the information presented (and in some cases, include his or her contact information) is a good indication that the information is reliable.
- Date – The date of any research information is important, including information found on the Internet. By including a date, the website allows readers to make decisions about whether that information is recent enough for their purposes.
- Sources – Credible websites, like books and scholarly articles, should cite the source of the information presented.
- Domain – Some domains such as .com, .org, and .net can be purchased and used by any individual. However, the domain .edu is reserved for colleges and universities, while .gov denotes a government website. These two are usually credible sources for information (though occasionally a university will assign a .edu address to each of its students for personal use, in which case use caution when citing). Be careful with the domain .org, because .org is usually used by non-profit organizations which may have an agenda of persuasion rather than education.
- Site Design – This can be very subjective, but a well-designed site can be an indication of more reliable information. Good design helps make information more easily accessible.
- Writing Style – Poor spelling and grammar are an indication that the site may not be credible. In an effort to make the information presented easy to understand, credible sites watch writing style closely.
Of course, there may be some reliable websites that do not include all these qualities. If you are unsure whether the site you’re using is credible, verify the information you find there with another source you know to be reliable, such as an encyclopedia or a book on the subject. The kind of websites you use for research can also depend on the topic you are investigating. In some cases it may be appropriate to use information from a company or non-profit organization’s website, such as when writing an industry or company overview.