Reliable internet sources are the same as those you would search for in the library. You want:
- primary sources
- unbiased sources
- sources with the background and training to understand the topic
Young students have difficulty understanding these rules. They have barely learned about ‘primary sources’ and have no idea how to select unbiased ones. As for the final point, the ability to select sources with relevant background–that usually comes with age and experience, not something students get for most of their academic career.
With that in mind, there is one guideline that will help even novice researchers find reliable sources: the extension. Here are the most popular extensions in order of reliability, dependability, and trustworthiness:
Published by the government and non-military. As such, it should be unbiased, reliable.
Published by the government and military. Perfect for topics that fit this category, i.e., wars, economics, etc.
Published by colleges and universities. Historically, focused on research, study, and education
U.S. non-profit organizations and others. They have a bias, but it shouldn’t be motivated by money
These next three require subjective interpretation from researchers and a cursory investigation into their information:
networks, internet service providers, organizations–traditionally. Pretty much anyone can purchase a .net now
commercial site. Their goal is to sell something to you, so they are unabashedly biased. If you’re careful, you’ll still find good information here
These are foreign sites. Perfect for international and cultural research, but they will retain their nation’s bias and interpretation of events, just as American sites have ours.
They are last on the list not because they are the least reliable, but because they vary so greatly from one country to the next.
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Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.