Having the ability to connect to the internet gives us access to an avalanche of information with just a few keystrokes. Back in the day, we used to have to go to a library or bookstore in order to search for a physical book or magazine for the information we needed.
Today, however, we are able to gain access to just about any source of information online.
The only problem with this is that it isn't always apparent which sites are giving valid and creditable information. These days anybody can start a website and post whatever they like, whether it is truth, fiction or just their opinion. This in turn makes it a lot harder to find sources for information that are reputable and creditable.
Often times you could be looking for information on a product you would like to order online. You need to make sure that what you want to order does what you need it to do, and it can be really difficult to find dependable information on a product. It is so easy to fall for marketing scams (especially since there are so many out there), so one needs to take the time to really check that the information you have is correct and trustworthy.
Thankfully, there are a few ways in which to make sure whether or not the information you are reading is reliable, or whether you need to take it with a bag of salt.
1. It's All In the Domain Name
When looking for information online, you need to check the domain names of the websites. A domain name is the website address, which you will find that at the top of your web browser screen.
If the domain name ends in .org it is a non-profit website and you need to consider carefully the information given. Check carefully if it is cited anywhere else online. If a domain name ends in .com (this is a commercial site) and it is a trusted website, then it will have been in use for a relatively long time and will have an About page and valid contact details.
Generally, websites ending in .gov (these are government sites) and .edu (these are educational websites) are, for the most part, reputable and reliable sources for information. Although it wouldn't hurt to still check the information and see if it is mentioned or listed anywhere else, just to be sure.
You can also use DomainTools to check where the domain name originates, whether it is a website based in the United States or if it is based abroad.
2. The Author Is Named
A credible website will make sure that the author of the article is named. Websites that have no name to their articles are suspect. Great reporting seems to be going out of fashion lately, but one way to know whether or not the information you have is correct is whether or not the author of the article is willing to put their name on the line.
If you're able to find information on the author of the article/information then that is a good start. You can also check whether or not they have other articles or posts published and whether or not they have been cited on other websites.
Generally you want to make sure that the author of what you are reading has some sort of authority to write on the subject. If they have no credentials and no reputation as a creditable writer, then you want to be very careful about believing what is written.
A reputable author is one who will have a biography (even if it is a short one), as well as other articles and who cites other professional sources. You don't want to take the word of someone who only voices their opinions.
3. Scrutinize the Content and Appearance
One clear giveaway that a website is not reputable is in its outward appearance.
When it comes to people, it is never a good idea to judge a book by its cover. But when it comes to websites and online information, you really do need to check the "cover," as this will give you insight into whether or not the information is reliable.
If the website is sloppy in appearance and contains a plethora of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, then it is a good bet that the information contained is not reputable. Nine times out of ten, a reputable source will have a clean faced website with content that is not only pleasing but also grammatically correct. One spelling error may go unnoticed but a horde of them spells trouble.
Once again, though, just because a site looks professional and smart, it doesn't mean that the information contained within is reliable. Every coin has two sides -- this applies to websites too, believe it or not. Be aware of scammers posing as professionals. Before believing what you read, check that you can find the information elsewhere as well.
4. Check the Published Date
The world around us is changing and when it comes to science and technology, the change is phenomenal. Therefore, if you are searching for information on these topics, you need to make sure that the information is up to date. Thus you wouldn't want to use information that was published or written twenty years ago. Or even ten years ago, depending on the topic you are researching.
The same is true of the medical profession. So much is changing and when looking for information online, you need to make sure that the date on the publication is relevant. You will need to make sure that the source you are referencing has been updated recently and has the most up to date information.
To see the date the article was published, you can look at the byline of the article. It usually appears next to the name of the author -- or sometimes, underneath it.
You can also check at the end of the article or even in the website address as it is sometimes displayed there.
5. The Proof Is In the Pudding (or Sources)
Overall, credible websites will be sure to have several links embedded in their articles which will take the reader to the sources of their information. If an article has no links to its sources, then you won't be able to double check the information they are giving.
This should already send up warning signals to the reader.
When it comes to finding a credible source of online information, you need to check whether there are studies that have been done that support the information given on the website. A viable source will be sure to include several links to online studies and also links to other websites containing information that backs up what they are saying on their site.
6. Double-Check the Information
In mathematic equations, one way to know whether or not you have the correct answer is to check your answer. For example, if you have ten apples and your friend eats three, you will have seven left. To check the answer you will add seven and three and if you get ten then you know your answer is correct. Sounds silly, but it's the concept that counts.
When searching for information online, you need to be on high alert for scams and websites that are trying to feed you false information. In order to check what you're reading, cross reference their sources if they have any and make sure that what they are saying is mentioned on other sites. If you can't find the information listed anywhere else online, then ten to one it isn't true.
You can also use Google's Safe Browsing Site to check whether or not a site is genuine and safe to use. With so many scammers out there, you want to make sure that you are browsing safe sites.
Something else that you can do is to check a company's social media presence. These days, social media has become the online "who's who" and trustworthy company's and sources will often have a medium to large social media presence.
Trust Your Instincts
Lastly, when it comes to online sources, you need to approach the information unemotionally and with an open mind. If you find the information hard to believe and you can't find any other sources to back it up, then the chances are that it is false information.
It would also be a good idea to trust your instincts. There are people out there who have dedicated their time and effort to getting people to believe false information, whether it is advertising or just false publicity. Don't fall into the trap of believing sensational headlines -- carefully check all information and make sure that what you are reading really is true.
Something else to be aware of are the advertisements on the website. If you are immediately inundated with advertisements, it could indicate that the site is unprotected. You can make use of some free tools to scan for malware and known scam sites if you are concerned that the site you visited is unsafe.
As always, if you're needing any kind of additional help identifying quality sources online, consider reaching out to HelpCloud technicians for remote support.