Skip to main content

SPE 101: Find Websites

All the best resources for you to start your speech, all in one location.

Evaluating Web Resources

Before using a website in a paper or project, you should evaluate it to make sure that it is appropriate for college level research. Consider the following criteria when you are evaluating a website:

  • Authority:  Is the author and/or organization who maintains this page clearly stated?  Does the author have the credentials or experience to suggest that they are an expert in this field?  Is the organization maintaining this page biased in regard to this topic?
  • Accuracy:  Does the website include sources for all factual information?  Are these sources credible and current?  Is the information presented on the website consistent with the other sources you have found?  Does the website provide a way to contact the author or organization for additional information?
  • Currency: Does the website clearly state the copyright date or the last date it was updated?  Was the website updated recently?  If links are included, are all links working?
  • Scope and Purpose: Does the website clearly state its mission or purpose?  Does the mission or purpose of this website present a potential bias?  Is the intended audience clear and is the content appropriate for the level of research you are performing?

Domain Names

The domain of a website indicates the type of entity responsible for creating and maintaining the site.  The domain can be found in the site's URL and is always preceded by ".".  See below for a list of possible domain names and the things to consider when evaluating these sites.

.gov : Maintained by various areas of the federal government and can generally be trusted.  These are particularly useful for statistical inforamtion such as census or employment data as well as legal information such as Congressional hearings and Supreme Court rulings.

.edu : Maintained by educational institutions ranging from elementary through college.  These are generally reliable sources, particularly if they are maintained by a college or university department or research center.  However, be weary of personal student websites which may be hosted under a .edu domain but are not necessarily reviewed by the institution.

.org : Most commonly maintained by non-profit organizations which are usually credible, unbiased sources.  However, be weary of non-profit organizations that strongly advocate specific points of view such as many lobby or activist organziations.  While these organizations may provide credible information, be sure to check that this information is supported by cited sources and that you have evaluated all sides of this issue in other sources.  Be sure to consider whether this organization is supported by commercial interests which may introduce bias.

.com : Maintained by commercial entities.  Consider the motive of the site's creators as they are likley selling or promoting their product.  While this information may be accurate, it may also be presented in a biased light or it may exclude information that could potentially harm their commerical interests.

.net : This is a generic domain name that could was originally intended for network technology groups but has come to encompass commercial and individual interests as well.  These sources should always be closely evaluated.

.mil : Maintained by the various branches of the United States military.

.il.us : Maintained by various branches of the Illinois state government.  This would also apply to any of the other 50 states such as wi.us, in.us, mi.us, etc.  State sources are generally reliable and are particularly useful for state governement information such as state tax or health department information as well as websites hosted by individual towns or municipalities.

Common English-Speaking Country Domains :
.au = Australia        
.ca = Canada
.uk = United Kingdom

Websites

Issues, Organizations, and Interest Groups
A list of groups that support one side or another of many current events issues.

Gallup Poll
Use the Gallup website (www.gallup.com) to cite statistics on public attitudes concerning virtually every political, social and economic issue of the day.

USA.gov
The U.S. government's official web portal for government information and services.

US Congress
Information about Congress and National laws, available and open to the public. 

Rand Public Policy Research
This nonpartisan group researches effective solutions for problems, and then lobbies for their solutions to be adopted.

ProCon.org
A non-profit organization promoting critical thinking by using controversial topics. Many popular topics are covered.