Which online resources are safe to use?
Search expert Barbara G. Friedman emphasizes the importance of knowing how to evaluate Web site reliability in her book Web Search Savvy: Strategies and Shortcuts for Online Research (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005, 158). In Credibility at a Glance, she notes that one “quick measure of a Web site’s credibility is to look at the domain.”
Barbara G. Friedman explains:
Many journalists apply a hierarchy of trust when judging the credibility of a site. It’s actually not all that different from the standards applied to traditional information sources. For example, government information is considered the most reliable, probably because there are copious checks of (and restrictions on) the contents of federal .gov sites, and of the individuals who develop and maintain them. The Web sites of U. S. Senators, for example, must meet with restrictions set forth by the Secretary of the Senate, and are monitored for compliance by the Senate Webmaster. Military sites also rank high on the trust scale, for the same reason.
Following “.gov” and “.mil” sites, university sites are among the most trusted. Academia is a fiercely competitive profession. Research that includes questionable or inaccurate data is challenged quickly and loudly. The contents of peer-reviewed journals are representative of the best research in a particular field. Keep in mind however, when using “.edu” sites that they can also be the personal pages of students and staff members. In that case, the credibility of a site’s content diminishes.
To learn where .org, .net and .com sites fall within this hierarchy of trust, check out Credibility at a Glance.