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Being choosy when selecting hits
Be choosy when selecting Web pages from a list of search engine hits, especially for college-level research. In any list of hits, try to answer the question: "Who are they, and why are they qualified to publish on this topic?" Try to establish the authority (believability, credability) of the information. The domain extension part of the URL address tells us what TYPE of Web site it is, which also tells us something about why they are publishing information on the Web. Here are the most common U.S. domains and what they mean:
.com= commercial site. The most common domain. Be aware that they may be trying to sell something.
.biz= small business site. More recently available as a domain, not as common. Same warning as above.
.net= network. An internet-provider site.
.edu= education. Schools, libraries, museums, and universities use this domain. Generally trustworthy, but be careful about using something published by another student or other non-expert.
.org= organization. Usually a good source for whatever the purpose of the organization is. Google the name of the organization to check them out. Watch for bias if they are promoting ideas or policies.
.mil= military. Usually preceded by .navy, .army or other services.
.gov= U.S. government sites. Many great informational sites are .govs, because government agencies collect information and conduct research.
.state.__.us= State government sites. Fill in the two-letter state abbreviation such as state.tx.us for Texas government sites.
Other countries: Address URLs end in the official two-letter abbreviation for their country: .ca for Canada or .uk for United Kingdom, etc.
After noticing domains, look for Web sites that are...
- Published by well-known magazine, newspaper or news organizations. Most of the major print publishers and news media organizations have Web sites that end in .com. (examples: cnn.com, nytimes.com, time.com, newsweek.com) Remember to cite these sources as Web pages. You will need to recognize the name of the publication or news organization in this type of site, because there are so many .com domains.
- Published by well-known organizations. Their purpose is to create information about their main causes. Look at the home page of the site for "about us" or "info" links to learn more, and look for information about the organization in Google or Wikipedia. Are they the main organization for this cause?
- Published by an educational institution. Many libraries, colleges, universities, schools and some museums fall into this category. However, .edu domains might also have student work on their Web site, so check the author's credentials. Does the information have errors, typos, or other indications of student work? Google the author's name to learn more about them. Are they an expert on the subject?
- Published by a government agency. Federal and state governments collect and create a large amount of information for their constituents. For example, MedlinePlus.gov is a great site for medical information, and is published jointly by the National Institutes of Health and the National Library of Medicine. It brings together Web sites from other well-known research organizations for health care.
If you do not find a Web page from one of the above types, ask "What can I find out about this Web site?" Go to the home page of the site and look for "about us" or "info" links to learn more. For any information source, you should be able to apply the "CRAAP" Test. See the page of CRAAP test information.
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