What Is the Difference Between a Credible Website & Non-Credible Website?

By Crystal Bonser

When searching for reliable information on the Internet, it's crucial that you determine the credibility of the websites you are browsing. A credible website is one that contains factual, authoritative, unbiased and current information. Even if a website appears credible at first glance, it's important to develop a critical eye since virtually anyone can create a website on any topic they want.

Author's Credentials

Look at who wrote the website's content and what qualifications he has in that field of knowledge. If he is qualified, he will have mentioned his credentials on the website. It's also important to look at what organization or institution the author is associated with. If a link and/or contact information for the organization or institution is posted, the website is more likely to be credible. Finally, you should look to see where else the author has been published. For example, if he has written articles for peer-reviewed scholarly or professional journals on the same topic as the one he has written about on his website, you can generally trust that the website is a credible source.

Author's Research

Look to see what research went into writing the website's content. If a "works cited" or "reference" list is present, you know that the author did his research. You should also examine some of the links in this list to see if other credible sources are reporting the same information. If the author does not refer to where he got his information and if he is not an expert in his field, the website is not credible.

Date of Article

Look at when the article on the website was written, or when the content of the website was last updated. If you don't see a date anywhere but the article refers to old news as if it were current or if it contains many dead links, chances are the website hasn't been updated in a while. It's important to determine the date because even if the information was credible at one point, new research may have made the information obsolete.

Type of Website

Look for educational websites (those that end in ".edu") or government websites (those that end in ".gov"), as the information provided on these sites is more likely to be credible. Of course, you still need to investigate who wrote the content. For example, a student may have written an article, on a topic that he knows very little about, published through his college's server. Other websites, such as those made by individuals, businesses and organizations, commonly end in ".com," ".org" or ".net." Many of these websites do contain credible information, but just as many don't. Be wary of business websites as they often contain biased information to encourage you to purchase their products. Also, many individuals create websites as hobbies and may have no more expertise on the topics they are writing about than you do.