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Websites present a unique problem for evaluation in that anyone can create and post a website. If you want to use a website for information, and especially if you are going to cite a website in a paper, you must make sure that the website is a credible source.
One good method for analyzing a website's credibility is the CRAAP test. It goes as follows:
Currency:When was the information put on the website?
How recently was the website updated?
Are the links functional?
Relevance: Is this website geared towards your topic and level of research?
Does the website contain information on your specific topic?
What is the intended audience? What level of information is being presented?
Authority: Who produced/updates the website?
Who is the author, updater, and/or sponsor of the website?
Is there any contact information on the website for the author?
Does the URL reveal anything about the website?
the tag on the end of the main URL portion can tell you about the type of organization. examples include .com, .edu, .gov, .org, or .net.
Accuracy:How accurate or reliable is the content?
Where does the author of the website get their information?
Is that information supported by hyperlinks to other credible sources?
Are there spelling errors?
Purpose:Why does the website exist?
Is the purpose of the information to inform you, influence you, sell you something, or provide you with information?
Do the authors explain why the website exists and what its purpose is?
(This list is paraphrased from the CRAAP test document produced by the Meriam Library at California State University. Click on the hyperlink for the full document)
There is no one exact way to determine whether a website is a credible source; you need to use your judgement. The CRAAP test gives you a list of useful questions to go through, and is one method for making the evaluation process easier.
Evaluating Resources Tutorial
Here is a 4.5 minute tutorial on how to use the CRAAP test, complete with examples!
Why you need to evaluate websites
State Farm presents an excellent example of why you need to critically evaluate sources from the internet.