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Evaluating Sources

This guide explains how to evaluate media/news sources and internet sources, as well as provides useful resources to help you critically evaluate information.

About this page

Below are two different approaches to evaluating internet sources.

Evaluating Internet Sources

Consider the following criteria when evaluating the information that you have found.

  • The questions below will help you in evaluate web pages for use as academic sources. Be sure and look at the criteria in multiple categories prior to making a decision regarding the academic quality of a source.

    How did you find the page? 

  • How you located the site can give you a start on your evaluation of the site's validity as an academic resource.

    • Was it found via a search conducted through a search engine? Unlike library databases, the accuracy and/or quality of information located via a search engine will vary greatly. Look carefully!
    • Was it recommended by a faculty member or another reliable source? Generally, an indicator of reliability.
    • Was it cited in a scholarly or credible source? Generally, an indicator of reliability.
    • Was it a link from a reputable site? Generally, an indicator of reliability.

    What is the site's domain? 

  • Think of this as "decoding" the URL, or Internet address. The origination of the site can provide indications of the site's mission or purpose. The most common domains are:

    • .org :An advocacy web site, such as a not-for-profit organization.
    • .com : A business or commercial site.
    • .net:A site from a network organization or an Internet service provider.;
    • .edu :A site affiliated with a higher education institution.
    • .gov: A federal government site.
    • :A state government site, this may also include public schools and community colleges.
    • .uk (United Kingdom) : A site originating in another country (as indicated by the 2 letter code).
    • ~:The tilde usually indicates a personal page.

    What is the authority of the page?

  •  Look for information on the author of the site. On the Internet anyone can pose as an authority.

    • Is the author's name visible? Does the author have an affiliation with an organization or institution?
    • Does the author list his or her credentials? Are they relevant to the information presented? 
    • Is there a mailing address or telephone number included, as well as an e-mail address? 

    Is the information accurate and objective? 

  • There are no standards or controls on the accuracy of information available via the Internet. The Internet can be used by anyone as a sounding board for their thoughts and opinions.

    • How accurate is the information presented? Are sources of factual information or statistics cited? Is there a bibliography included?
    • Compare the page to related sources, electronic or print, for assistance in determining accuracy. 
    • Does the page exhibit a particular point of view or bias? 
    • Is the site objective? Is there a reason the site is presenting a particular point of view on a topic? 
    • Does the page contain advertising? This may impact the content of the information included.Look carefully to see if there is a relationship between the advertising and the content, or whether the advertising is simply providing financial support for the page.  

    Is the page current? 

  • This is both an indicator of the timeliness of the information and whether or not the page is actively maintained.

    • Is the information provided current?
    • When was the page created?
    • Are dates included for the last update or modification of the page?
    • Are the links current and functional?

    Does the page function well? 

  • The ease of use of a site and its ability to help you locate information you are looking for are examples of the site's functionality.

    • Is the site easy to navigate? Are options to return to the home page, tops of pages, etc., provided?
    • Is the site searchable?
    • Does the site include a site map or index?

(adapted from the University of Illinois Undergraduate Library)

Evaluating Internet Sources with the CRAAP Test

(developed by librarians at CSU Chico)

Currency: the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
  •     examples: .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government), 
                   .org (nonprofit organization), or .net (network)

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content, and

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?