ENG 111 / 112 : Start Guide for Undergraduate Level Research

Evaluating Information from the Web

Checklist for Evaluation

It is essential that we practice verifying that our sources are credible, reliable, and authoritative. One way for us to remember the questions we need to ask is the acronym, CRAAP.  CRAAP stands for:

  • Currency: How current is your source?
  • Relevancy: Will this source suit your needs?
  • Authority:  Who wrote the information and published it online?
  • Accuracy:  How reliable, truthful, and correct is the information?
  • Purpose:  Why does the information exist?

The following list will assist you in developing a strategy for critically evaluating sources:

CURRENCY - The timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • Are the links functional?

RELEVANCY - 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?

AUTHORITY - The source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?

ACCURACY - The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content

  • 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 unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

PURPOSE The reason the information exists

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

Web Searching

A Google search can be helpful in the preliminary stages of research, especially now that more quality content has been made publicly accessible on the web; a publicly accessible resource means you will not be charged an additional fee to access the content. While access to credible content on the web has increased so has the amount of unreliable, malicious, and undocumented content. All of us know that anyone can post or upload content on the web. As researchers we have to remain critical to determine the authority, credibility, and quality of the content.

A big difference between the content you'll find searching in the library's databases and catalog (locating articles and books) and searching using Google is that the majority of the content found through the library's research tools have been reviewed and edited. These resources had to follow a set standard of guidelines determined by the experts in that discipline and/or by the publisher. The content you find through the Internet does not necessarily have a standard of publishing guidelines, so there may be no one vetting the information for accuracy and credibility; a standard of publishing content on the Internet is determined by the organization or by the discipline. Develop a habit of evaluating each website you visit. The criteria list above can be also be applied to the web, but here's a short list of questions for you to consider:

  • Who is the author or the host of the site? Who created this content? Do they have expertise on the topic?
  • What is the domain name? Some domain names have more credibility, such as a .gov or .edu. Content published on a .gov or .edu will have standard of publishing content or, at the minimum, a set of expectations. 
  • What is the organization's agenda? Examples:
    • If you decide to cite a page from epa.gov, you know that the agenda of the EPA is to protect our health and the environment through enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress.
    • Before you were to cite Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Division (Google it!) as a resource about the harmful effects of consuming Dihdrogen Monoxide, you would learn that the purpose of this website is to educate people about the dangers of not being science literate; Dihdrogen Monoxide is another name for water.
    • When we learn that Stormfront hosts the site Martinlutherking.org, we know that a white supremacist organization will not portray a person of color in a positive and accurate way.
  • When was the resource last updated?
  • Were the sources cited?

Purdue Owl: Evaluating Print vs. Internet sources

Purdue Owl: Searching the World Wide Web