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Evaluating Websites: Bias and/or Agenda

Learn how to determine whether or not a web site is reliable.

Agenda

Many organizations publish research reports on their websites. While these can be a valuable source of information, remember that many organizations have a social and/or political agenda/perspective that frames their research.

As you examine a site for bias, ask yourself:

  • What other issues do they research?
  • Do the policies or solutions they propose have a similar theme?
  • Who heads the organization and what is their background?
  • Who are the major donors? Do they have any overt political leanings?

It's important to be aware of any agendas that might exist, whether they are conservative or liberal. This will help you understand the context within which the information is framed.

Domain

Pay attention to the domain type; it may influence the information you are viewing.

Although anyone can buy a domain name, it's good to be aware of the logic behind the types.

Commercial sites usually end in .com. They might be trying to sell you something or promote their own product, so beware of self-promotional language and potentially incomplete or biased information or statistics.

Academic sites end in .edu, but examine the URL and the page's content. Is it a library web page, or a student's personal project?

Government-related sites end in .gov. These are generally reliable; however government information is often influenced by the political party in power at the time. 

Non-profit groups such as public interest organizations, religious groups, and think tanks use the .org domain. These sites may be biased toward the organization's point of view.