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Website Evaluation: Overview

Some information from the internet may be inaccurate or unreliable. When using information from the internet for your coursework, evaluate the website to determine if it is credible and appropriate.

Tips

Scan the perimeter of the page for information about the creators of the page, the purpose of the page, and when the page was last updated.  Look for links such as "About Us" or "Contact Us."

If you cannot find an author or publisher for the page you can try truncating the URL.  In the web address box, delete the end characters of the URL stopping just before each / (leave the backslash).  Then, press enter to see if you can learn more about the author or the origins/nature of the site providing the page.

Look at the domain name of websites. The domain name of the site can give you an indication of possible bias.  For example, a .com is, by definition, a commercial site so they may be trying to sell you something.  This is not to say that all or even most .coms are unreliable because that is certainly not true. 

  •  Government sites: .gov or .mil
  •  Educational sites: .edu but note that these can also include personal  student and faculty pages
  •  Nonprofit sites: .org 
  •  Commercial sites: com

 Pay attention to the style of the language used on the site.  Is it balanced and professional with both sides of the issue covered, or does the language seem inflammatory or biased?

Some of our databases like CQ Researcher and Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center include a selection of recommended websites for each topic.

Have you checked your assignment? Some faculty have requirements for using websites for research.

 

What are Credible Websites

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Website Evaluation Criteria

 

CRAAP TEST

Because not all information is good information, this handy checklist is useful when evaulating a web resource (or ANY resource). CRAAP stands for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.  The test provides a list of questions to ask yourself when deciding whether or not a source is reliable and credible enough to use in your academic research paper.

 

     Questions to Consider ...

Currency

  • When was the information published or last updated?
  • Have newer articles been published on your topic?
  • Are links or references to other sources up to date?
  • Is your topic in an area that changes rapidly, like technology or popular culture?

Relevance

  • Does the information answer your research question?
  • Does the information meet the stated requirements of the assignment?
  • Is the information too technical or too simplified for you to use?
  • Does the source add something new to your knowledge of the topic?

Authority

  • What are the author's credentials?
  • Is the author affiliated with an educational institution or prominent organization?
  • Can you find information about the author from reference sources or the Internet?
  • Do other books or authors cite the author?

Accuracy

  • Are there statements you know to be false?
  • Are there errors in spelling, punctuation, or grammar?
  • Was the information reviewed by editors or subject experts before it was published?
  • What citations or references support the author's claims?
  • What do other people have to say about the topic?

Purpose

  • Is the author's purpose to sell, persuade, entertain, or inform?
  • Is there an obvious bias or prejudice?
  • Are alternative points of view presented?
  • Does the author omit important facts or data that might disprove the claim?
  • Does the author use strong or emotional language?

Note: the CRAAP test was developed by librarians at CSU Chico.  

More resources

Purdue Owl-Citing Electionic Sources:Web Documents