How to Know If a Website Is Reputable or Not
The popularity of the World Wide Web and the ease at which a website can be created has created an interesting problem. Because anyone with a basic knowledge of how the Web works can create a website, the Internet is full of sites with biased and even incorrect information. When you go online, you cannot trust everything you read. You must take the time to determine if a website is reputable before trusting the information that it contains.
Determine who the author or publisher is. If the author is a respected expert in a particular field or the site is published by a reputable company, the website is most likely reliable.
Check the web address. The most reputable websites often end in .gov for government agencies, .edu for academic institutions or .mil for military sites.
Find out the purpose of the site. Is it primarily used to sell a product, provide information for educational purposes or to promote a particular cause? This will help you determine any bias.
Search for a way of communicating with the website’s author or owner. Reputable websites will offer a “Contact Us” option of some sort.
Check the website for regular updates, if applicable. News sites and health-related sites, for example, should be updated and modified regularly to keep the information up-to-date.
Look for documentation on important information. Determine if the resources used are also reliable.
Tips & Warnings
- Evaluate the tone of the website. It is informative, satirical or argumentative? If a website is reliable but also satirical, you will approach the information in a different way than you would a website with an informative purpose.
- As you evaluate websites, always check the information you read online with other sites. Keep in mind that even if several sites contain the same tidbit of information, it may not be trustworthy.
- Remember that a commercial website may be pushing a particular product or service, so while it may be a reputable website, it might not be completely unbiased.
- While currency of the information is important, some types of information, such as historical documents, do not change with time. A website containing a collection of historic documents, for instance, will not be regularly updated.
- Do not trust a website that has information that cannot be verified elsewhere, either by checking online or in print documents.
- Use caution when visiting a website that is filled with advertisements. While most websites will contain ads, a site that has more ads than information is likely not a trustworthy one.
- Keep Internet safety in mind at all times. Do not trust your personal or financial information to a website that is not reputable.