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Evaluating Websites

How to judge if you are looking at reliable information on the Internet.

Web Evaluation

ANYONE can publish on the Web! What you see are a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Evaluate each website critically before using it for your research.

The CRAAP Test is a common checklist used to evaluate an informaiton resource.

Currency: The timeliness of the web page.

  • If relevant, when was the information gathered?
  • When was it posted? 
  • When was it last revised? 
  • Are links functional and up-to-date? 
  • Is there evidence of newly added information or links?

Relevance: The uniqueness of the content and its importance for your needs.

  • What is the depth and breadth of the information presented? 
  • Is the information unique?
  • Is it available elsewhere, in print or electronic format? 
  • Could you find the same or better information in another source? 
  • Who is the intended audience? Is this easily determined? 
  • Does the site provide the information you need? 
  • Your overall assessment is important. Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority: The source of the web page.

  • Who is the author/creator/sponsor? 
  • Are author's credentials listed? 
  • Is the author a teacher or student of the topic? 
  • Does the author have a reputation? 
  • Is there contact information, such as an e-mail address? 
  • Has the author published works in traditional formats? 
  • Is the author affiliated with an organization? 
  • Does this organization appear to support or sponsor the page? 
  • What does the domain name/URL reveal about the source of the information, if anything? Example: .com .edu .gov .org .net

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the informational content.

  • Where does the information come from? 
  • Are the original sources of information listed? 
  • Can you verify any of the information in independent sources or from your own knowledge? 
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed? 
  • Does the language or tone seem biased? 
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typos?

Purpose: The presence of bias or prejudice/The reason the web site exists.

  • Are possible biases clearly stated? 
  • Is advertising content vs. informational content easily distinguishable? 
  • Are editorials clearly labeled? 
  • Is the purpose of the page stated? 
  • Is the purpose to: inform? teach? entertain? enlighten? sell? persuade? 
  • What does the domain name/URL reveal about the source of the information, if anything? Example: .com .edu .gov .org.

The CRAAP Test was created by Meriam Library at California State University, Chico. 

Take a look at the address or URL.  Do you know what the domain names are for websites?  Here are the ones you will see most often.

 .com = commercial

   .org = organization

.net = network

  • Internet service provider
  • Originally for network providers but could be commercial or individual sites now
  • http://www.sonc.net/

 .gov = government

 .edu = education

  • College or university site
  • Could be serious research or a student site
  • Mainly reliable/factual
  • http://infomine.ucr.edu/

 

What is Fake News?

There are four broad categories of fake news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College.

CATEGORY 1: Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.

CATEGORY 2: Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information

CATEGORY 3: Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions

CATEGORY 4: Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news

No single topic falls under a single category - for example, false or misleading medical news may be entirely fabricated (Category 1), may intentionally misinterpret facts or misrepresent data (Category 2), may be accurate or partially accurate but use an alarmist title to get your attention (Category 3) or may be a critique on modern medical practice (Category 4.)  Some articles fall under more than one category.  Assessing the quality of the content is crucial to understanding whether what you are viewing is true or not.   It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.

Professor Zimdar's Google Doc includes a list of identified sources of fake, misleading news and satire

Quick Exercise: 

Compare these two links.  Which one do you think is true?  Why or why not?
1 - Eat This Not That: Shocking Facts About Farmed Salmon
2 - Washington State Department of Health: Farmed vs. Wild Salmon

Fact Checking Links

 

Additional information on Fake News: Fake News - from Rider University; Fake News - from Fordham University

 

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