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How to Evaluate Sources

Evaluating the Relevance of a Web Site

There are several ways to determine what kind of Web site you are looking at and whether the information presented on it is likely to be relevant to your project.

One way to evaluate the relevance of a Web site is to check out the domain name (part of the URL). The three- or four-letter extension on the end of the domain name can tell you what kind of site it is. The most common domain names are .com (for commercial sites), .org (for nonprofit organization sites), .gov (for government sites), .net (for network related sites), and .edu (for educational sites).

As you can see, the Taiwan Documents Project domain name is .org. This information told Aaron that a nonprofit organization runs this site. As Aaron evaluated this site, he also looked at the page title, navigation headers, and menus for more information about the content and organization of the site. He found a link on the left side of the page called "About TDP,"

which he used to find out more about the site. As he followed the "About TDP" link,

he found out that the sponsoring organization is privately funded and non-partisan. He also found contact information for the site so he could send an email message or call to find out more information if he needed it.

Another aspect of Web site evaluation is the related sites on the Internet that the Web site links to. Because sites tend to link to other sites that they find useful or that generally agree with their particular outlook, following these links can help give you an idea of the general outlook of a Web site. Aaron noted that from the main page of the site he could view other sites linked to the Taiwan Documents Project by clicking on "Links" on the left side of the page.

To determine whether the source was relevant to his research project, Aaron scanned the site for relevant text. He also skimmed the first and last sentences of paragraphs, and scanned for headings, pull-quotes, and captions under any photos and figures. Aaron decided this site was relevant to his project because it contained government documents that would be useful sources for his project.

Click on the Continue button to view a demonstration of evaluating the evidence used on the Web site.

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