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How Things Work: PHYS 0847

Evaluate Each Source For...


  • Who wrote or what organization is responsible for the piece? Are they qualified to talk about the topic?
  • Is there sufficient evidence to support the conclusions given?


  • When was the piece written? If long ago, has there been new research on the topic?
  • Are enough details given?
  • Does the author acknowledge any criticisms of or contradictions to these findings in the field? Does the author respond reasonably to those criticisms and contradictions?


  • Is the piece objective or one-sided? (One-sidedness is a sign that it may not be reasonable)
  • Is there a conflict of interest - would the author or funding agency want the study to turn out a certain way?
  • Does the author make bigger claims than the evidence supports?
  • Does the language used reflect opinions or biases, ie "lonely men hunt the innocent creatures..."?


  • What is the source of the information? Are there links, lists, or detailed mentions of where the information came from?
  • Is there contact information for the author or organization responsible for the information?


Evaluating Websites

In addition to being aware of all the evaluation criteria to the right, an important thing to consider for online resources is the URL.  These pieces of a URL can give you hints about the authoritativeness of a website.

URL for


  • HTTP: probably the most common protocol – or transfer protocol – you’re likely to see.
  • HTTPS: the ‘s’ in https stands for secure, because the protocol has layer of encryption that makes it difficult for others to get your information. When you’re logging into your bank website, Facebook account, or TUPortal, or otherwise entering personal information, the URL should start with https.
  • FTP: the other protocol you should be aware of is FTP – file transfer protocol. This protocol means a file is transferred to your computer. Be wary of “websites” that begin with ftp.

Host or Hostname – On this website, the host or hostname is The host is whatever comes between the protocol and the first slash. It refers to the server the page is hosted on.

The content of the page should seem to match the host. If this page’s host was, for example, you probably wouldn’t want to trust this information.

Check out this website for an example of a page whose content doesn’t match the host:

Top-Level Domain – the TLD is you .com, .gov, .edu, etc. If you know what they’re generally used for, they can help you understand the URL and the website better. Here is a list of the most common TLDs and their intended use:

  • .com: mostly used by for-profit organizations, ie
  • .edu: used by colleges or universities, ie
  • .org: mostly used by nonprofit organizations, ie
  • .net: no specified user - .net used to be the TLD that anyone could use for anything and it tends to be used by pretty generic, unauthoritative sites
  • .gov: used by the US government

In addition to these TLDs, there are also country code TLDs that reflect the country the site was created in. Most sites created in the US don’t use their .us code, but most other countries do.

The United Kingdom uses .uk, Russia uses .ru, Germany uses .de, South Africa uses .za, China uses .cn,  etc.

Wikipedia has a nice list of TLDs, including country codes.