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English (Writing and Literature) Departmental Research Guide

Website Evaluation Tools

www evaluating websites

evaluating websites

Check the Web Domain!

Check the web domain of your websites for the fastest way to determine the likelihood of a credible resource!  Some domains have gatekeeper functions which restricts the type of site which can be included.  This means webpages with the domains .edu, .gov and others are more likely to be reliable sources.

Web Domains in Scholarly Research

Where does your source come from?

Generally Reliable

Government  (.gov or .mil) - Government websites end in .gov  are among the most reliable sources on the web.  BUT beware of political sites, their intent is usually used to sway public opinion.

University (.edu) - University web sites end in .edu, are usually reliable.  

Less Reliable

Company Websites (.com) - Company web sites generally end in .com. These sites are great for information about a particular company. However be aware that company websites are used to promote, so be sure the information is non-biased.

Special Interest (.org) - While many professional organizations end in .org, there are also many .orgs that are biased and promote a specific agenda.


CRAPP test
Evaluating Information:  Applying the CRAAP Test
(Borrowed from Meriam Library - California State University, Chico)

When you search for information, you're going to find lots of it...but is it good information? You will have to determine that for yourself, and the CRAAP Test can help. The CRAAP Test is a list of questions to help you evaluate the information you find. Different criteria will be more or less important depending on your situation or need.

Evaluation Criteria

CurrencyThe 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?

RelevanceThe 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 basic or too advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

AuthorityThe 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?  Examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net

AccuracyThe 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?

wrong facts


Fake News

fake news

Make Sure to Check the Facts First!

There are many fact-checking websites available online. Before using one of these websites, remember, a good fact checking service will use neutral wording and will provide unbiased, authoritative sources to support their claims. Look for the criteria below when searching for the facts.

Evaluate sources

  • Does the website have an "About Us" section? Does it disclose a source of funding?
    Knowing this information enables you to judge the website's purpose and viewpoint.
  • Citations and evidence
    • Is information cited so that you can track down the source and verify it?
    • What evidence is used to prove the author's point? Is the evidence reliable, and is it used logically?
  • For more tips, see the sections above.

Beware of:

  • Websites that contain the suffix "lo" (e.g., Newslo) or that end in "".
    These often present false information for satirical or other purposes.
  • Websites that urge you to dox an individual or organization
  • Websites that have amateurish design, use ALL CAPS, and try to play on your emotions
    Those are often signs that information is not trustworthy and that you should research it further via other sources
  • Memes making the rounds on Facebook or other social media sites
    Try googling the topic of a meme or other doubtful story: if it is a legitimate news story, you'll probably find it covered by an established source like a major newspaper or TV news channel
  • Clickbait
    Sensationalist headlines and odd photos whose purpose is not to publish legitimate news but to increase traffic at a website

Burst your filter bubble

Web browsers and social media sites employ algorithms that feed you information you've shown a preference for. This so called "filter bubble" connects us to news that tends to reinforce our set views, rather than challenging us with new ideas. When conducting research for class or simply making up your mind on an issue, try these strategies:

  • Seek credible information from both sides of an issue: conservative and liberal; religious and atheist; industrialized and developing nations; etc.
  • Use databases that aren't influenced by your previous web searches.
  • ‚Äčhow to spot fake news 


Core Curriculum Librarian

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Sara McCaslin
The Commons at Helm Library 2019

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