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Fake News & Bad Info: Media Literacy Resources

Learn how language can be used to in a way that it affects the way people perceive reality. Unlike real news, whose purpose is to simply inform, the main purpose of fake news is to confuse and manipulate people.

How Search Engines Work - Navigating the Internet

lines of computer code iconSearch engines are your entry to the internet. They search through volumes of information and make decisions about what to show you based on your search term. But with so much data to sift through, how do search engines work?

A search engine uses algorithms to determine what shows up first, second, third, etc. in a list of results, Without algorithms you’d just get a completely random set of results, which wouldn’t be very useful.  Algorithms.are individual lines of code, or step-by-step instructions computers follow to complete tasks, solve problems, and make automated decisions. Algorithms power nearly everything we see online, including search engines, social media, video games, online dating, and smartphone apps. 

Domain Suffixes

                world wide web icon            Website Addresses:

What does ".com," ".gov," ".edu," ".org," ".net" ".uk," ".ru" stuff mean?

Approach information from the Web that you use to support your ideas and arguments in a research paper or other assignment, carefully.


Comparison: Library Sources vs. Web Sources

Library Resources Academic and Public Libraries

  • are evaluated and chosen by experienced librarians
  • credible, quality information is available for FREE with a student ID or library card
  • two ways to use a campus or public library
    • in-person libraries have print and other "physical" materials, study spaces, including staff help
    • online libraries have electronic or digital materials and online help like Chat or Ask-a-Librarian

Web Resources Websites, Social Media

  • no evaluative process
  • no restrictions or review processes for publishing information 
    • anyone can create a web page and has access to a hosting computer
    • anyone can publish anything
      • opinion, satire, hoaxes, or just plain false information.

Key Definitions

  • URL (Universal Locator Resource) - the "address" for a unique website or resource on the web.
    • URLs are used to find a specific webpage.
      • Example:
  • Domain - the name of the website
    • westerntc.libguides
  • Domain suffix - the last part of the domain name

Users of the web need to be both wary and smart.

  • Look at the URL (the website's "address") for clues 
    • The web address or (URL) for Western Technical College Library is
    • The domain suffix (.edu) tells you the address is an educational website, like a department or research center at an educational institution, whose purpose is to educate and inform.
    • However, students may create personal web sites on the school's server and use the .edu domain. These are usually not monitored by the school.

  • The domain suffix .com tells you the address belongs to a commercial website.
    • The purpose of a .com website varies: 
      • - purpose is to sell you a product
      • - purpose is to promote the product it manufactures and sells. T
      • This LibGuide ( - purpose is to educate 
    • Apply the S.I.F.T. or CRAAP Method to evaluate the credibility of a .com website.
  • The domain suffix .gov tells you the website represents state or federal government 
    • State Government ( 
    • Federal Government websites (  
  • The domain suffix .org tells you you are looking at a specific organization
    • City Governments ( and County Governments ( governments tend to use the .org domain suffix
    • Non-profit organizations like the American Red Cross ( and PBS ( also use .org (organization).
      •  information is credible and unbiased,
    • Some organizations are represented VERY specific points of views and are not meant to be unbiased or objective.
      • National Right to Life Committee ( 
      • Planned Parenthood (
      • If you use these websites as a research source, acknowledge the information represents one point of view on a topic

  • Mixed domain sites
    •  U.S. Department of Defense (, a governmental organization uses the .gov domain suffix
      • DoD's military organizations use the .mil (military) domain suffix, a top-level domain.
        • Army (
        • Navy (,
        • Air Force (
        • Marines (, etc. -
        • Recruitment websites and other second-level domain entities often use the .com domain suffix
        • Military academies will use .edu.

  • Be cautious with websites with the .net domain suffix. Once upon a time .net (network) was considered a top-level domain suffix, but has since become a catch-all for websites not easily classified under the other domains, although Some networks and advertising sites still use it.

  • A domain suffix might also give you a clue about the geographic origin of a website. Many sites from the United Kingdom will have a domain suffix of .uk., for example
  • Other country domain suffixes:
               .au - Australia
  .in - India
.br - Brazil
.it - Italy
.ca - Canada
.mx - Mexico
.fr - France
.tw - Taiwan
.il - Israel

Look for an About Link

NPR logo


           Look for the ABOUT link!


  • A good way to tell if a website is credible is too look for an About  link at either at the top or bottom of web page.  This is where the organization reveals its commitment to provide factual information. Some clues to NPR's mission to inform.

About NPR image



"NPR is an independent, nonprofit media organization that was founded on a mission to create a more informed public. Every day, NPR connects with millions of Americans on the air, online, and in person to explore the news, ideas, and what it means to be human. Through its network of member stations, NPR makes local stories national, national stories local, and global stories personal."





Bias icon


Sometimes an About page will reflect a bias or specific point of view, so read through it carefully and remember to ask questions:


  • What is the purpose of the website? Does their claim seek to inform or persuade?
  • Does their claim reflect the whole picture or just a specific part of it? What's missing?
  • How might the bias show positive or negative outcomes?
  • The information may or may not be useful to your research. It's valid to present multiple perspectives,  but keep your radar fine-tuned, be a little skeptical, and try to verify their claims with additional research.

stop icon


Anything on the web that does not have an About link is probably not credible. Close the page and find something else.


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