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Evaluating Websites

Analyzing URLs

A URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is a web address for a page or document on the World Wide Web. We can make some educated guesses (see the box at right for a warning) about the reliability of a web site if we know a little about URLs. 

Each URL (for example https://www.whitehouse.gov/get-involved/internships/), consists of an access protocol (http),a domain name (www.whitehouse.gov), and an optional path to a file or resource residing on that server (get-involved/internships).

The domain name indicates the organization responsible for the site (www.whitehouse.gov in the example above). The top-level domain indicates the type of site (gov in the example above).

The most common top-level domains and the type of site they indicate are:

  • com  commercial business or for-profit organizations
  • gov   United States government agencies
  • edu   educational institutions
  • mil    United States military organizations
  • org    non-profit organizations

In general, .gov and .edu web sites are more reliable than .com web sites. The box at left describes how to limit a Google search to only .gov sites.

Educated Guesses Not Enough

Making educated guesses about the reliability of web sites will only get you so far--you must rigorously evaluate web sites on an individual basis, be they a .com or .gov. How do we evaluate web sites? Click the Evaluation Criteria tab above for guidance.