When doing research, it is extremely important to evaluate sources for accuracy and appropriateness for your assignment. Many sources of information, especially those found on the internet, may be inaccurate or contain certain biases. Use the information below to help you through this process, or ask a librarian!
Evaluating Print Sources
Note the type of publication
- Scholarly and authoritative sources (scholarly journals) are generally the most reliable. These sources are written by people who have credentials in the field in which you are researching.
- Scholarly sources are usually peer reviewed (refereed). This means they are evaluated or critiqued by researchers and experts before publication.
- Other sources (websites, newspapers, magazines) may also be reliable, but can be more difficult to determine accuracy.
Check the author's credentials
- Look at past publications, work history, education background, and any professional associations the author might belong to.
- Sometimes, this information is summarized within an article.
- Note any potential bias the author might have.
Check the publication date and/or edition number
- Is the source current or out of date?
- Has the source been revised or republished?
Is the information accurate?
- Does the author cite sources?
- Are there obvious errors in spelling or punctuation?
- Can you verify the information in another reliable source?
We've brought together a few websites that do a good job of explaining the criteria to use when evaluating websites you find during your research.
- Evaluating Web Pages - UC Berkley Library guide for evaluationg web pages gives you questions to ask yourself and the implications.
- The CRAAP test – created by California State University – Chico this method evaluates a site based on Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose.
WHO created the page/site? Can you find and verify the author’s qualifications, whether an individual or an organization?
- Look for “About us /Author” links for author’s name and contact information.
- Verify author’s qualifications in another source, e.g., journal, encyclopedia, etc.
- Look for a link to the home page of the website where the document lives.
- Look at the parts of the URL or address to find organizational affiliation.
- Use a WHOIS search to help determine ownership of website
WHAT is the site about? Does it have the kind of information you need?
Look at the browser title bar, document title, content, and links.
WHERE is the information coming from? Does the site list any sources or methods used in gathering their information?
- Look at the URL and domain suffix. – Only the following three are restricted:
- .edu=U.S. institution of higher learning.
- .gov=U.S. federal, state, or local government.
- .mil=U.S. Military.
- All other suffixes can be registered by ANYONE: .com, .net, .org, .tv
- Two letter country codes (.uk, .ca) can identify where is it from if not U.S.
- URL should match the organization responsible for the page.
- Check who owns the site at a WHOIS site.
WHEN was the page or information created? Is the currency of the information provided important?
- Look for dates. Can you tell what they mean? Publication or copyright date? Last modified or updated? Date statistics gathered or published?
- Note date you accessed the site. You need this to cite the Web site!
WHY is this site on the web and how does it affect the information?
- Look at “About us/Mission/Purpose”, links, content, and advertising.
- Determine purpose of the site:
- Informational (provides multiple viewpoints and references).
- Business or marketing (tries to sell you something).
- Advocacy or “soapbox” (tries to persuade you).
- Entertainment (satirical, fictional).
- Choose sites whose purposes are compatible with your information needs!