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Gerstein Science Information Centre

BIO120: Adaptation and Biodiversity

This guide will assist BIO120 students, as well as other biology students, when starting to look for and gather research for papers and assignments.

Evaluating Websites (Video)

Decoding Domains

The URL or web address can provide clues to the type of website and its authority, accuracy, purpose and even intended audience. Look at the domain suffix after the final period in the URL (the .com part) for more information. Here are some commonly used domain suffixes:

  • .edu = educational site (usually a university or college)
  • .com = commercial business site
  • .gov = U.S. governmental/non-military site
  • .mil = U.S. military sites and agencies
  • .net = networks, internet service providers, organizations
  • .org = U.S. non-profit organizations and others

The domain suffix can also give you a clue about the geographic origin of a website. Examples of these country domain suffixes include:

  • .ca = Canadian site
  • .uk = United Kingdom site

Evaluating Information from the Web

Consider these criteria when looking for information on the web:

Accuracy
  • Is the information factual, not opinion?
  • How valid is the research that is the source?
  • Is the site free of errors in spelling or grammar and other signs of carelessness in its presentation of the material?
Authority
  • Is the author's name given?
  • Are her/his qualifications specified?
  • Is the author affiliated with a reputable institution or organization?
  • Has the author written elsewhere on this topic?
  • If this is an organization or business website, are they qualified to speak on this topic?
  • Are additional electronic and print sources referenced to complement or support the material presented?
Bias
  • Is the information factual, not opinion?
  • Where arguments are given, are they based on strong evidence and good logic?
  • Is the author's point of view impartial and objective?
  • Is the author's language free of emotion and bias?
Audience Level
  • What audience is the Web site designed for?
  • Is it too basic or too technical for your needs?
Currency
  • Is this web site current?
  • Is the date of the most recent update given?
  • If this is a book or article, how old is the information?