Quick Tip: If you are searching Google for a website with a specific domian, such as a .gov or .edu, when you type in your search add : and the domain type at the end of your search term.
For example, if you wanted to find government websites on gun control, type in "gun control:.gov". Or if you wanted to specifically search for non-profit websites that had information on wildlife, type in "wildlife:.org". You can also specify the domain type on Google's Advanced Search page.
.com – Commercial websites
- Generally created by a business or corporation and is for profit.
- Provides information on products or is motivated by sales.
.edu – Educational websites
- Created by a college, university or grade school.
- Information is provided for academic purposes.
- Highly regulated and can only be owned by an educational organization.
.gov – Government websites
- Created by local, state, and national goverments.
- Information is provided for the public.
- Highly regulated and can only be owned by an government organization.
.org – Organization website
- Used by both non-profit organizations, for profit corporations and individuals.
- Organization websites can be owned by a corporation and be sales motivated, owned by an individual or owned by a non-profit organization that provides information supporting a specific cause or viewpoint.
- Carefully evaluate non-profit organizations as they can have a particular viewpoint on an issue, so the information they provide can be biased or slanted in order to support their viewpoint.
Are you considering using a website for a research assignment?
Not all websites are appropriate for academic research and you need to examine them carefully in order to determine if the information is accurate, credible, and supports your research assignment.
Websites can be created by anyone and facts, images, and videos can be easily altered, have to be carefully evaluated for use in your research assignments. Also be sure to ask your instructor if they will accept a website as a source for your research assignment.
There are countless websites available on various topics, but how do you determine what websites are the best to use? There are four main questions you want to ask yourself when critically examining a website in order to determine if it is appropriate for your research assignment:
WHO created the website?
WHAT type of website is it and what is the website's domain?
WHEN was the information on the website last updated?
WHY was the website created?
There are certain types of websites that are highly regulated and tend to be more appropriate for research assignments, such as websites with the .edu and .gov domains. That is because educational .edu and government .gov websites can only be issued to an educational organization or a government organization and their content is under more scrutiny and oversight. They can provide original research and information on that topic for government and academic purposes and are not motivated by sales, but educational .edu and government .gov websites can still have bias or a particular viewpoint on a topic. For example, if you look at https://www.whitehouse.gov/ The White House website you can see that all the information is government related and there are no ads on the site.
Keep in mind that any website you use for research purposes should always be carefully evaluated, even if it is a .edu or .gov website.
How current the information is on a website or when it was last updated is dependent on your research topic. If you are researching a current, controversial issue, you need to have the most up to date information. Especially if your topic is related to changes in the law or recent scientific discoveries. Try looking at the bottom of the webpage or the top of the article to see when the information was posted or last updated. Also look on the webpage for links to references and articles that show where the information came from and make sure to click on the links to see if they actually work.
Examining the motives of the website creator will help you to determine if there is a particular viewpoint or bias in providing that information. For example commercial websites, such as a .com or .net, are generally going to be motivated to sell you something or to advertise their product, so you need to be aware of that in terms of determining if the website's information is accurate and appropriate to use for a reasearch assignment.
Consider why the author posted the information on the website. Critically thinking about why the information was posted, helps you determine if the website is appropriate to use for your research assignment: